WCC Head Preaches Unity at North Korean Church

The head of the World Council of Churches preached to a North Korean congregation Sunday, emphasizing the importance of cooperation and unity in a country known for its reclusiveness and for having the most heavily militarized border in the world.

By invitation of the Korean Christian Federation of North Korea, WCC General Secretary Dr. Samuel Kobia shared with the nearly 200 members of Bong Soon Church in Pyongyang the letter that the Apostle Paul had written to members of the new church in Corinth at a time when problems of divisions had emerged.

"There are two main learnings I want us to reflect on this morning," said Kobia on the first day of a four-day visit. "The first is that we are called to take care of each other. The second is to recognize the need for nurturing the unity which is given to us by Jesus Christ."

Drawing from Paul's comparison of the Church to a body, Kobia emphasized how each body part needs the other and highlighted how this interdependence applies outside the Church as well.

"[W]hether we are talking of one country or many countries, one place or many places, we are dependent on each other and we need each other," he said.

Having brought up the notion of interdependence, Kobia eventually injected into his message the WCC's desire to see North Korea and South Korea reunited after more than 50 years of separation.

Though an armistice was signed in 1953 after three years of fighting between the North and the South, to date, the war has not been officially ended through treaty, and occasional skirmishes have been reported in the border region.

As a result, millions have been separated and disconnected from family members on the other side of the border. Only a few hundred have had the opportunity to be reunited after leaders of the two Koreas met in 2000 for their first summit, which led to the first round of family reunions later that August.

Last month, in the last week of September, the two Koreas allowed for another round of reunions – the first in nearly two years – as part of an agreement made after three days of talks, mediated by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the month before.

About 10,000 people applied to take part in the reunion, but fewer than 200 families were allowed to participate, CNN had reported last month.

"It was a very emotional reunion," Kobia said Sunday after noting how "Koreans know the pain of being separated."

"The very real possibility of the reunification of Korea is something the World Council of Churches is yearning for, and we fervently support. Because when people come together you see how they hug each other, how they rejoice together. Jesus Christ himself rejoices to see this happen," the WCC leader added.

Kobia said that he and the delegation accompanying him would be staying in North Korea until Wednesday to listen to North Korean Christians and church leaders with the aim of working together toward the goal of reunification "and the joy and peace and healing that it brings."

"Therefore we listen to what Paul has set out in this teaching this morning, that we are one body, with different parts but interdependent. We need each other. You can count us as your friends and as your brothers and sisters. And we shall continue to work tirelessly so that your dreams and aspirations will be fulfilled through God's grace," he said before concluding his message.

"We praise God that we have been able to be in fellowship with you this morning. Praise God!"