A Peninsula Divided

A theology student from Montreal visits the Korean DMZ with students from the Asian Pacific region to call for peace.

This blog post was first published on the United Church of Canada’s Website by People in Partnership on November 14, 2018.

In 2009, at the age of 19, my mother passed away from breast cancer.

I think, when we’re faced with profound injustice that we can’t comprehend fully, we are often brought back to experiences of our own where the piercing sensation of unfairness has touched us. That’s what I was thinking as I stood in Imjingak, Paju, Korea looking at the remembrance wall where South Korean families bring messages for their loved ones on the other side of the DMZ, the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

The boundary that separates my mom from me is not some manufactured liminal space. It is concrete. It cannot be crossed or reversed. Standing there and looking at the messages left by families, and the messages of peace and reunification, I couldn’t help but think of the legacy of sadness this place represented. I had met numerous people that week, in Seoul, who told me about family (immediate and extended) who they couldn’t see, or know, because of the 1945 division of the Korean Peninsula by Russia and the United States. I kept thinking how much my heart would ache if I knew my mom was just there—out of reach.

A group of students hold a banner calling for peace at the Korean DMZ.
Delegates from the conference outside the Mariest Education Center, Seoul, Korea.

I was in South Korea this past August as a member of a delegation with the World Student Christian Federation for the “The Prophetic Calling for Peace: Ecumenical Students and Youth for Sustainable Peace in Korean Peninsula” peace conference. I was the only North American among members from Asia Pacific. We were invited to come to the peninsula to learn about peacemaking from Korean students, theologians, church leaders, and the profoundly inspiring women’s movement. The Korean Student Christian Federation hosted us for a week, teaching us about the history and possibilities for the future of the peninsula. Part of this included our trip to the DMZ in Paju.

For that week I learned about how the U.S. military industrial complex still maintains incredible power in the peninsula, contravening the Korean Armistice Agreement signed in 1953. I learned how soldiers of not just Japan, but the U.S., used and abused the “comfort women” of South Korea, and these “grandmothers’” continued struggle for recognition and a formal apology. I learned how the South Korean military, controlled by a U.S. army general, shapes the formative years of every able-bodied young man through mandatory conscription. I learned that denuclearization of the North makes little sense when no peace treaty has been signed, and other global powers use their own nuclear weapons as a constant threat—whole world denuclearization is the only reasonable option.

During a visit to the Korean DMZ, students gathered before a large colourful sign made up of the letters, "DMZ".
Delegates at the DMZ’s “fourth tunnel”, Paju, Korea.

I was also deeply inspired by the other young people I met, from across Korea and Asia Pacific, who cared fiercely about justice and peace issues. Together, we formed a circle of global prophetic voices calling for peace everywhere, not just on the Korean Peninsula. In our communiqué for WSCF Global we wrote that peacemaking “calls on the life-giving power of truth, love, and unity in diversity. It resists the destructive powers of anxiety, fear, control and greed. Peacebuilding comes from a place of ‘inner peace’, which for us, as Christians and ecumenical partners, is derived from a life of faith and the inspiring story of the radical Jesus Christ.” Noting that we each were taking a seed of peace, gifted to us by our Korean siblings, we returned back to our own homes emboldened to work together for peace.

Selina Mullin is a student at the United Theological College and participated as a Pilgrim in Mission in A Prophetic Calling for Peace: Ecumenical Students and Youth for Sustainable Peace in Korean Peninsula, hosted by Mission & Service partner the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) in August 2018.

Advertisements

Holy Mischief // SCM Canada

I was privileged this week to be offered a position on the Board of the Student Christian Movement in Canada as the Communications and Resource Board Member (lovingly known as the Director of Propaganda). I have accepted the position with a bit of surprise, knowing this organization has a wonderful legacy of meaningful work and prestigious members. Though, it may not seem so at first, the motley crew of students/young adults and “senior friends” has been a noticeable force in the Canadian and international civic spheres.

Since its founding, SCM Canada has taken stands on pressing social issues of its time, including support for the ordination of women, opposing internment of Japanese-Canadians during World War II; anti-war activities since the 1960s; and facing controversy for its solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identified Christians. Members were involved in the Canadian social gospel movement which mobilized for a more just social order in Canada, including accessible health care, education and social services. (SCM History)

SCM is also a part of the WSCF–World Student Christian Federation, an international body of movements. We join with them in hopes of seeing a vision of peace and justice realized worldwide, for all persons.25616_363422358349_1222264_n

As a place of discussion, prayer, and action, SCM has offered young adults a collective of diversely inspired and passionate Christian to join in holy mischief, and the pursuit of peace and justice. Never before had I met passionate individuals who so whole-heartily believed in the Beatitudes.

Having had the opportunity to meet SCMers from around Ontario at the recent Cahoots Festival I was inspired by their passion and vision. SCM held a visioning meeting during the Festival where long-time participants and newcomers all joined together to write down the dreams and desires they hope to actualize, together, over the coming year. The process was cathartic as people expressed frustrations, longings, hopes, and we bonded over the collective past and present of the organization. As a very new member of SCM Ottawa, I felt incredibly welcomed into this motley community mischief-makers and invited into their diverse and meaningful work. Now I have an opportunity to join that work nationally and support those small but industrious SCM groups across Canada rallying behind the Social Gospel.

I look forward to what the coming year will bring, supporting SCM groups from BC, Manitoba, Ontario and so many more. And, to see more individuals find their voice in our greater human narrative, just as those who came before us:

  • The Greensboro Four (U.S. Civil Rights movement)
  • J.S. Woodsworth (labour leader & social gospel minister)
  • Muriel Duckworth (founder, Voice of Women for Peace)
  • Lois Wilson (former head, World Council of Churches; 1st woman moderator, United Church of Canada)
  • James Endicott (co-founder of SCM Canada and United Church of Canada)
  • Kwame Nkruma (pan-African unity leader)
  • Desmond Tutu (anti-apartheid archbishop)
  • Nancy Ruth (Canadian senator)
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer (dissident pastor martyred by Nazis)
  • Steve Biko (anti-apartheid martyr)
  • Brother Roger (Taize founder)
  • Jurgen Moltmann (theologian)
  • Vince Goring (Canadian Commonwealth Federation/NDP)