When people ask me ‘how’s your work going?’, my reply usually includes a comment like ‘well, I think I get more out of it than I put in!’ Working for APF challenges and changes me. Spending time with the Bargn Nuri Community from South Korea was another one of those experiences.
Bargn Nuri means ‘bright world’. This Christian community live out their values of ‘life and peace’ in their relationships with each other and with the land. They are also working for harmony and collaboration between North and South Korea, through the example of their lives and speaking against the militarisation they experience in Korea, and the unjust consequences of imperialism and nuclear weapons.
Before November 2019 I had never heard of the Community, but fortunately Won Shin contacted me by email whilst he was planning to visit Europe with about 50 members of the Community to hold Life & Peace Prayer Pilgrimage meetings early in 2020. I tentatively agreed to talk with him and his wife Alice over skype, not really knowing what would come of it.
Life and Peace Pilgrimage
The conversation took off and after more contacts were made there was a day planned in London as part of their Pilgrimage to Europe (thanks to the coordination of CCND). On Monday 27th January 2020, members of the Bargn Nuri Community joined with representatives from CCND, Pax Christi, XR Peace, and APF at St Ethelburga’s for a day of sharing, prayer and singing. Cheolho, the leader of Bargn Nuri, and other community members shared about their life together and their vision and work for peace in the Korean Peninsula. A panel of speakers from the UK organisations also shared from their knowledge and experience. And we were treated to an amazing Samulnori symbolic drumming presentation, full of sound and energy.
We learnt from Cheolho that ‘Violence cannot achieve peace. The only way to achieve peace is peace itself’. He then went on to describe a vision for a North East Asia peace system in which, starting with re-unification of the Korean peninsula, the heavily-militarised, divisive balance of power between North Korea and China on the one hand and South Korea and America on the other, could be transformed. A neutral, peaceful Korea could provide stability for the whole region.
We heard from other members of the community, including Dain Kim who spoke about her experience of growing up in Bargn Nuri. Looking to the future she said, “I have a lot of questions but I am not afraid to face them and my future, because I have a lot of friends with me.”
So what challenged me?
I was challenged by my ignorance about Korea. I learned that the Korean peninsula is still at war. It is the only country in the world where the Cold War has not ended. I was challenged about the impact of imperialism which has destroyed much Korean culture, and I recognised more deeply the ongoing influence of the UK’s imperialism and its colonial approach to our planet.
And what changed me?
My heart was opened to a place of conflict that (I am ashamed to say) I had ignored. Meeting life-filled, grounded and bold Christians who are living out their commitment to the planet and to humanity was a gift. I was inspired by the integrity of their approach which takes seriously the care of our ecosystems and our land, as well as the call to challenge the mindsets that allow militarism to dominate the narrative of peace and conflict.
You can read more about Bargn Nuri and the Life and Peace Pilgrimage here; Bargn Nuri
Tilly Martin is the APF Coordinator. She is enjoying learning a lot about peacemaking, pacifism, nonviolence and reconciliation through all the people and organisations she encounters in her role at APF.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended to provide a space for people associated with APF to express their own personal views and opinions in order to promote discussion of issues relating to peacemaking and pacifism It is not necessarily a place where the official views of APF are expressed.