.- Calling for worldwide prayers for peace and reconciliation in Korea, the president of the Catholic Bishopsâ Conference of Korea (CBCK) has warned of âimminent humanitarian catastropheâ in North Korea and has said war would be âa terrible tragedy.â
In a June 19 interview, Bishop Peter Keng of Cheju told Fides news agency about the special Day for Prayer and Reconciliation and Unity of the Korean People, held on Sunday. It had as its theme âBlessed are the peace-makers, for they will be called children of God.â The Day for Prayer and Reconciliation was held as tensions between the north and south are strained over the sinking of a South Korean navy ship.
âWar would be a terrible tragedy, and we want to prevent it, using the most powerful of weapons: prayer.â
âIt is urgent to find new paths for dialogue and reconciliation,â he commented, adding that the Catholic Church supports Korean religious leadersâ commitment to peace and solidarity.
The bishop reported that the Catholic Church in South Korea, together with other religious communities, has formulated a request to resume humanitarian aid to the North.
âAt this time of extreme tension, ways must be found to give new impulse to promoting dialogue and reconciliation,â he told Fides. The aid to the north would be beneficial and its resumption would be âa gesture of goodwillâ towards North Koreans who suffer poverty and hunger. The gesture would also âcertainly have a positive effectâ on the government of North Korea, he thought.
Bishop Keng said at present Caritas Korea is doing nothing because its aid to the North has been stopped.
âThis is the first such deadlock in decades. Our concern is to save innocent civilians in North Korea especially the most vulnerable categories, the children, who suffer dramatic consequences when humanitarian aid is stopped,â the bishop explained.
âLocal NGOs warn of an imminent humanitarian tragedy in the North,â he continued, acknowledging that the Church has no direct information âbut the danger exists.â
Briefly explaining the present policies of the South Korean government towards the North, he said that the government of President Lee Myung-bak stopped various actions of North-South cooperation as early as 2008. The present government is different.
The March crisis triggered when a South Korean warship was sunk by a suspected North Korean torpedo has âclearly worsened the situationâ and totally sealed the boarder, the bishop said.
âThis latest crisis is breeding sentiments of mistrust and hostility and fear that violence could escalate,â Bishop Keng added, declaring âurgentâ the need to stop âthis self-feeding spiral.â
Direct dialogue with the North is âextremely difficultâ for many reasons, such as its refusal to follow conventional norms. Indirect dialogue through countries such as China becomes âfundamental,â as does the involvement of international institutions such as the United Nations.
âIn this extremely delicate situation Korea's religious leaders continue to pronounce just one word: reconciliation,â he explained. âWe as Christians can only keep reminding all Koreans and indeed the whole world that the supreme good is reconciliation.â