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Christians for Extending the Gulag By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) is enlisting its ecumenical partner church groups in South Korea, the U.S., Japan, Russia, China and North Korea to serve as fellow "watchdogs" of the upcoming "six party talks" involving those nations over North Korea's nuclear program.

Of course, North Korea's and China's ecumenical groups are controlled by their communist regimes. But the WCC doesn't mind at all! And neither likely will the U.S. National Council of Churches or the other ecumenical partners. Expect a beautiful consensus among all parties about the REAL threat to peace in the Koreas: the U.S. presence in South Korea and ugly U.S. threats against North Korea.

Christianity in South Korea is vibrant and conservative. But the Korean Council of Churches is as reflexively left at the WCC and the U.S. church council. The Korean NCC recently hosted a conference in Seoul on "reunification" of the Koreas. WCC chief Samuel Kobia flew in to keynote address the gathering.

Virtually none of the published remarks from the WCC reference the cause of Korea's division: Joseph Stalin, with support from Mao Zedong, erected a monstrous communist police state in North Korea that persists to this day as the world's most oppressive society. Instead, the left-wing church groups speak of the division as only the tragic outcome of rivalry between the "superpowers."

A WCC news report impartially explains that after World War II, "Korea was partitioned into two military occupation zones, with the Soviet Union governing the north and the United States the south." Afterwards, the "The Korean War, 1950 to 1953, deepened the division between what would become communist North Korea (the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and capitalist South Korea (the Republic of Korea)."

Regrettably, both sides have "demonized 'the other,'" the WCC report casually observes. The ecumenical movement has responded to all the demonizing by courageously challenging "enemy images" and "ideological walls" while "advocating for an end to the arms race, the denuclearization of the peninsula and reunification by peaceful means based on the democratic participation of all Koreans."

The WCC report notes that South Korea is today a democracy. But it diplomatically declines to label what North Korea remains: a totalitarian slave state. The WCC prefers to focus on the "setback to positive developments" in Korea because of President Bush's "axis of evil" speech in 2002, to which a very hurt North Korea understandably responded by withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"We have come a long way since the epoch when discussion of reunification was considered an offence, and time has proved that the churches' principled stand on this issue was prophetic," WCC chief Samuel Kobia gushed to the "International Consultation on the Role of Churches in Peace and Unification" in Seoul this month. "But today the struggle for peace and reunification has to continue in a much more complex geopolitical landscape."

The WCC bewailed that the Korean division has been perpetuated thanks to "the anti-communism prevalent in society" and a "social atmosphere of antagonism" towards North Korea. Also unhelpful has been "aggressive missionary work" by Christians. Unmentioned by the WCC are North Korea's various terrorist attacks on South Koreans and the massive army that impoverished North Korea maintains purely to threaten South Korea.

But of course, it's not communist North Korea's fault for Korea's division, which was imposed by outside forces. "The longer Korea remains divided, the better for the strategic and economic goals of the superpowers," explained one Korean member of the WCC's international affairs committee. This WCC official would like to "to see greater support for North Korean Christians in order to help them improve their standing in society."

By "improved standing in society," does this WCC official mean that North Korea's tyrants should stop routinely imprisoning, torturing and killing Christians as a matter of state policy? Apparently he did not elaborate, or the WCC reporter was not interested in discussing further.

The WCC generously published a prayer for Korean reunification crafted jointly by South Korea's leftist National Council of Churches and by the Korean Christian Federation, which is an agency of North Korea's intelligence service. "We will do our utmost to be a church proclaiming national unification and peace as well as practicing it, with mildness and humility, not with threats, with justice and love, not with force, with patience and devotion, not with oppression," goes the prayer, with little sense of irony.

Sixty years ago, much of Korean Christianity was centered in the north. After their Soviet-orchestrated take-over, the Korean communists shut-down over 1,500 churches. All of North Korea's Christians fled south or went underground. Over the last 20 years, becoming more media savvy, the North Korean communists created their religious front group and set up several Christian congregations in Pyongyang for gullible foreign visitors and staged photo ops.

Needless to point out, the WCC warmly embraces the Korean Christian Federation as an ecumenical soul mate. After all, they are in agreement about so much! That thousands of North Korea's authentic Christians languish in horrid communist prisons, and that tens of thousands more worship God only in secret, in fear of their lives, never captures the attention of the WCC or its ecumenical partners.

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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