The conference addressed the escalating tensions in the region, with China, Russia, and North Korea on one side, and the US, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan on the other. The forum aimed to explore the potential of religious voices in mitigating these conflicts. Hanns Seidel Foundation was pleased to attend and contribute to this important event.
Hosted in Paju, the conference featured notable participants, including bishops, abbots, scholars, religious leaders, and young individuals. The first session centered on the threat of nuclear weapons and the arms race, emphasizing the need for dialogue to defuse the current crisis. The second session discussed climate change, collaboration, and human rights issues in Northeast Asia, with an emphasis on seeking common ground.
The final session, a roundtable on peace in Northeast Asia and the role of the Church, focused on creative approaches to promoting engagement and understanding. This session was moderated by prominent figures from the Catholic community, including the Bishop of Hiroshima and the Chairman of the Korean Bishops' Conference Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People
The second day of the forum took participants to the Joint Security Area (JSA) on the Korean Peninsula, where they were introduced to the history and challenges of maintaining peace in this contentious region. A joint Mass for the unification of the Korean Peninsula and peace was held at the JSA.
On the third day, participants visited Hiroshima in Japan, starting with a Holy Mass at the Hiroshima World Peace Memorial Cathedral. The day included a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum, which provided a poignant reminder of the atomic bombing's tragic consequences and the imperative to prevent the use of nuclear weapons in the future.
The last day of the conference began with a final Mass and discussion among bishops and young people. While the event may not transform society at large, it serves as a significant step toward deeper understanding and compassion among the Catholic communities of the United States, Japan, and South Korea.
In summary, the Catholic Korea Peace Forum 2023 offered a platform for fostering trust, understanding, and peace in the turbulent region of Northeast Asia. The forum demonstrated the importance of religious voices in promoting dialogue and collaboration in times of political tension and uncertainty.