Dozens of diverse Christian leaders in the United States have come together to pray that possible diplomatic talks with North Korea will soon lead to peace on the Korean peninsula.
“We call on all Christians everywhere to join us in praying for a just and peaceful resolution,” wrote the group, which includes National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson, Sojourners president Jim Wallis, author Eric Metaxas, and Evangelicals for Social Action executive director Nikki Toyama-Szeto.
“We pray for wisdom for our political, diplomatic and military leaders as they work across differences toward a goal of peace, security and freedom. We pray that God will bless the efforts of citizens who seek to bridge the vast differences between our countries.”
Their statement was released Tuesday, less than three weeks after President Donald Trump announced possible plans to meet with Kim Jong-un this spring. Johnnie Moore, one of the signatories and the unofficial head of Trump’s evangelical advisers, said the North Korea situation has often come up in their prayers at the White House.
The 90-plus initial signatories include several Korean Americans leading churches and ministries, such as activist Kathy Khang, pastor Eugene Cho, and North Park University professor Soong-Chan Rah. The group notes that a majority of the 2 million Korean Americans in the US are Christians, many of them evangelical.
In the statement, the leaders encouraged fellow believers to pray “with empathy and in a spirit of friendship” and emphasized that they “do not view the North Korean people as our enemies.”
Evangelicals are more hopeful than the rest of Americans that leaders can successfully negotiate to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. In a Politico/Morning Consult poll from mid-March, 48 percent of self-identified evangelicals were confident in negotiations, compared to 40 percent of US voters overall.
“We are heartened by proposals for dialogue between our national leaders at a time when increasing tensions seemed to be marching our countries perilously in the direction of greater conflict, if not war,” the Christian leaders wrote.
The recent poll found evangelicals were more likely (39%) than most Americans (32%) to support air strikes against military targets and suspected nuclear sites in North Korea.
A representative for the advocacy group Open Doors wrote for CT last week on the potential for negotiations to address North Korea’s harrowing human rights record and to free the three Americans being detained in the country.
“Christianity is regarded as a political crime, and it is punished like one,” a North Korean refugee said in the piece. “There is a great risk to hold the Bible in North Korea. The children, young and old, would not imagine talking about the Bible.”
Pyongyang was once known as “the Jerusalem of the East.” Korean Christians living in North America have been among the few to regularly visit the communist country and offer humanitarian aid, such as missionary Kenneth Bae, Toronto pastor Hyeon-Soo Lim, and professors at a private university in Pyongyang.
South Korea, the leaders’ statement points out, is home to some of the world’s largest megachurches and have dedicated ministries to praying for and helping North Korea.
The full text of the letter reads:
As American Christians with diverse approaches to force and nonviolence and yet all committed to pursuing peaceful relations among people and nations, we unite in prayer for permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. We do this mindful of the millions of lives, including more than 230,000 Americans, that would be threatened by an escalation of conflict there.
We are heartened by proposals for dialogue between our national leaders at a time when increasing tensions seemed to be marching our countries perilously in the direction of greater conflict, if not war. We call on all Christians everywhere to join us in praying for a just and peaceful resolution.
We pray for wisdom for our political, diplomatic and military leaders as they work across differences toward a goal of peace, security and freedom. We pray that God will bless the efforts of citizens who seek to bridge the vast differences between our countries.
Decades of people-to-people contact between North Korea and the United States- through business, educational and other humanitarian exchanges – have put a human face on those who are sometimes characterized by one another as enemies. So, we pray with empathy and in a spirit of friendship, noting the image of God in every human being. However profound the differences between our governments, we do not view the North Korean people as our enemies. On the contrary, we desire only the best for the people of North Korea.
Most of the nearly two million Korean-Americans are Christians, and many belong to evangelical churches. This community too has contact with North Koreans through humanitarian and family ties. South Korea is also home to many evangelical churches, including some of the world’s largest. Many of these Korean brothers and sisters have been praying for North Korea for years and we humbly join them. These connections with Koreans in North Korea, South Korea and the United States strengthen our resolve to seek God for mercy and, so far as it depends on us, to pursue peace between our respective countries.