Hundreds of Methodists Declare Korean DMZ Region of Peace

PAJU, South Korea – Hundreds of Christians stepped foot near the world’s most heavily fortified border – the Korean Demilitarized Zone – on Sunday, sharing a deep concern for the divided peninsula and offering prayers of hope for a reunited nation.

In what Bishop Kyoung-Ha Shin, president of the council of bishops of the Korean Methodist Church, called “one of the most dangerous regions of conflict in the world,” Wesleyan followers from the 19th World Methodist Conference held their Sunday worship service and proclaimed it a region of peace and reconciliation.

“Today, by the power of God we will proclaim and claim all this area as the temple of reconciliation and love,” said His Eminence Sunday Mbang, World Methodist Council chairperson, in his sermon. “God will send away the hate and send Jesus Christ to be King of this area.”

Applause and “hallelujah’s” broke out from the crowd of seated worshippers under the hot sun on a day that forecasted rain.

For many, it was their first time coming near the 38th parallel and while many were at first afraid to hold the conference in the Korean peninsula, Dr. George H. Freeman, general secretary of the World Methodist Conference, said, “That’s all the more reason we must go and stand for peace [in Korea].”

The service was held amid the five-day World Methodist Conference in which the central theme, “God in Christ Reconciling,” largely served in conjunction with the peace yet to be achieved between the two Koreas.

Freeman assured believers in Korea that “there will be more prayers offered than there were last week.” Now that hundreds more have come to know first-hand the urgent situation in Korea, Freeman said more will pray and more will take the concerns and prayers back home with them.

North Korean Christian leaders were also invited to take part in the historic service near the border of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea, but according to Freeman, that prayer has not been answered. Nevertheless, thousands of Methodists worldwide coming to Korea at the invitation of the Korean Methodist Church was significant and “meaningful” for the reunification of the peninsula.

Hundreds of balloons were released into the air as a symbol of hope for peace and reunification at the close of the service with some attached to the “Resolution for Reconciliation and Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula” drawn up by the World Methodist Council.

Calling the service “moving,” Dr. John C. A. Barrett, vice chairperson of the conference, expressed: “I hope we shall leave this place with a stronger …unity among individuals and churches.”