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Buddhists Join Interfaith Journey to the DMZ for Peace in Korea


A number of South Korean clergy, laypeople, and supporters from two Christian and two Buddhist organizations joined together earlier this month for a journey to the border with North Korea. The purpose was to commemorate the war, which ceased in 1953 with an armistice agreement but no formal declaration of peace, and to issue a “Declaration for Life and Peace.”

The visit to the border took place at the Peace Bell Plaza in Paju of Gyeonggi Province, northwest of Seoul, on 1 March. The bell, which was dedicated by the mayor of Gyeonggi-Do on 1 January 2000, is a popular site for tourists who wish to see the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). There, representatives from the four religious groups prayed for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Peace Bell Plaza. From

In part, the declaration issued said: “Peace is a core value that encompasses all religions, and peace is never something that can be achieved through physical force. We recognize differences, accept differences, and walk together while looking in the same direction.” (UCA News)

The event was organized by the DMZ Life and Peace Pilgrimage Committee, made up of Presbyterians, Catholics, Won Buddhists, and representatives of other Buddhist traditions in Korea.

Offering greetings on behalf of the Catholic Church was Father Timothy Lee Eun-hyeong from Uijeongbu diocese: “There is an old saying, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,’ and this one step we walk. I think this will be a good step toward advancing peace and creating peace,” he said, adding, “We urge everyone to join us on the path to peace and salvation.” (UCA News)

To end the ceremony, the bell of peace was rung seven times. This was to act as a symbol of the hope for peace, life, and solidarity between the two Koreas.

The pilgrimage offers people of many religious backgrounds the opportunity to express messages of kindness to North Korea. Religious figures in South Korea have recognized their vital role in highlighting the people’s wish for peace.

The pilgrimage began on 29 February and ends on 21 March, passing through a number of monuments to peace, including Daegwang-ri Peace Center in Baekmago, Cheorwon DMZ Ecological Peace Park, and Goseong Unification Observatory.

The Korean Demilitarized Zone remains a painful, 250-kilometer reminder of the war fought on the peninsula from 1950–53. The war followed the surrender of colonial Japanese forces, who annexed the unified Korean nation in 1910 and remained until their defeat in World War II in 1945. After Japan’s defeat, the allied countries split Korea, with Soviet Union overseeing the North with the United States overseeing the South. In the split and ensuing turmoil and war, some 1.5 million Koreans were displaced from their homes. After the war, many of the families that were caught on opposite sides of the DMZ were never able to reunite or even see their loved ones again.

In July 2023, marking the 70th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice, a larger interfaith gathering of leaders expressed the sense of urgency, noting:

North Korea continues to pose a military threat with its ballistic missiles and artillery. In response, the US and South Korea have been conducting large-scale joint land, sea, and air military exercises to pressure Pyongyang. The South Korean and North Korean governments have designated each other as the primary enemy and are increasing the intensity of their rhetoric and confrontations. The US and North Korea have also suspended talks with each other. Moreover, the war in Ukraine triggered by Russia’s invasion is escalating tensions between the US and China and between Europe and Russia. In particular, the war in Ukraine has reminded us that war can break out anytime and anywhere, even in a civilized society in the 21st century. If South Korea’s support for Ukraine and Russia’s military support for North Korea were to occur in tandem, it would not be surprising if war broke out on the Korean Peninsula tomorrow.*

* Ven. Pomnyun Sunim Joins Religious Leaders in Interfaith Peace Declaration on 70th Anniversary of Armistice on the Korean Peninsula (BDG)

See more

South Korean religious leaders go on pilgrimage for peace (UCA News)

Related news reports from BDG

Compassion and Connection: Jungto Society Hosts Study Trip for Young Leaders and Activists from the International Network of Engaged Buddhists
Engaged Buddhism: Peace Foundation Hosts International Symposium on “New Awareness of War, Peace, and Life” in Seoul
Engaged Buddhism in a Divided World: Declaration for Peace at the Korean DMZ
Engaged Buddhism: 20th Biennial INEB Conference Concludes in South Korea with a Commitment to Action, Peace, and Change

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