The Assembly began with an immersion programme Saturday 18th June which was designed to offer a poignant point of contact for the Assembly with the context in which it is hosted, but also as a way to begin the Assembly with a sense of togetherness and solidarity among the Assembly attendees and with the wider Korean community.
Participants were taken to a series of engaging, provocative and moving locations. It was a wonderful opportunity to see more of Jeju island’s beautiful scenery at the Lava Tube System, Tuff Cone and Stone park, and to spend time learning about its extraordinary history and proud sense of identity at the Peace Park and Gangjeong Village
The Peace Park
The visit to the memorial park was sobering and a reminder of the need for peace in the world. The theatre screened a video about the massacres that took place in Jeju. The ‘4.3 Peace Park’ as it is called because of the date of the ‘event’ as it is referenced, was a site of particular pain and told the moving story of an island torn apart by powers external and internal, costing the lives of tens of thousands of people and tearing apart communities and families. The memorial centre itself, and the exhibition within, are beautiful expressions of the importance of maintaining the memory of the past in the pursuit of truth and reconciliation. In the midst of an unfortunate story of pain and scarred memories is a glimpse of hope.
Two stories of hope stand out:
A Powerful Youth Voice: Healing Memories in Jeju
Often young people are said to be self-absorbed and not concerned about big issues in the world. The video’s narrator is a young person exploring his ancestry through his grandfather who was a victim of the massacre. He explores the painful memory with a view to move forward from it which illustrates the power of healing memories.
The Power of the Arts in Healing Memories
The publication of a novel set in the times of the war and turmoil that threatened peace in Jeju sparked the discourse which led to community truth-telling and steps towards reconciliation. The Peace Memorial Park is a symbol of the beginning of Jeju’s journey towards peace. A novelist’s radical thought and subversive message galvanised an entire community to seek a path towards peace.
As an expression of a community that maintains its pursuit of a future of hope and peace, Gangjeong village touched the hearts of many CWM visitors. The opportunity to meet and hear from a community that has placed resistance to forces of empire at the heart of their purpose for existence provided a stark connection to the lessons of the past exhibited at the Peace Park.
Reflection from delegate Rev Dr Geraint Tudur, General Secretary of the Union of Welsh Independents
“Having travelled from a country in which protestors often raise their voices against militarisation and war, to find similar protests taking place in another country and people there campaigning on the same issues, served to remind me of the shared anxieties of many of the powerless in the human family. Our Christian faith calls on us to stand with the powerless against the injustice and unfairness that power so often imposes and promotes. It is not a comfortable place for us to be, but is something that we must do”.
The stories of pain that we carry as individuals and as communities, nations and peoples need not have the last word. Stories of pain can be transformed by God’s Spirit who breathes HOPE into every situation.
CWM wants to convey its heartfelt thanks to all involved in hosting the visits and asks for the whole Assembly to join in prayer for this extraordinary island, in this beautiful and diverse nation.