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Korean Anabaptist dances for peace in Iraq

   

March 25, 2003
-by Lynda Hollinger Janzen

 

In Iraq, a weeping Eun-Ha Yoo dances for peace on a painting, "Nest of Savagery", depicting children's faces surrounded by missiles bearing the flags of the United States and other nations of war. Performing in Baghdad' s Tahir (Liberation) Square just days before the first American-led air strikes bombarded the city, Yoo is part of a delegation acting as a human shield against violence. Yoo is commissioned by the Korea Anabaptist Center, a ministry of Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network. –photo by CHU, Jae-Il

YOO, Eun-Ha is front row center. Others in the front row are KIM, Hyo-Sun (KAC volunteer) and Mr. JUNG (friend of Eun-Ha). In the backrow are KAC staff: LEE, Jae-Young, Tim Froese, Cheryl Woelk & KIM, Kyong-Jung. –KAC file photo

   

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- With tears streaming down her cheeks, Eun-Ha Yoo danced out a message of hope and peace in Baghdad’s Tahir (Liberation) Square just days before the first American-led air strikes bombarded the city.

Performing on a painting titled “Nest of Savagery” depicting children’s faces surrounded by missiles bearing the flags of the United States and other nations of war, Yoo said she could not keep from crying when she saw the children’s faces.

After others from Yoo’s 14-member ad hoc delegation, Iraq Peace Team Korea, also danced to Korean drum rhythms, each one invited an Iraqi child to sit with them on the painting and pleaded, “Don’t kill our future.”

Yoo joined the peace delegation, whose purpose is to stand in solidarity with the suffering Iraqi people and serve as a human shield, saying, “I want to be a witness of the Prince of Peace for people in fear and in need.” But Yoo needed a sponsor.

The last week in February, Yoo visited the Korea Anabaptist Centre, a ministry jointly supported by Mennonite Church Canada Witness. Mennonite Central Committee, and Mennonite Mission Network. She had become aware of the Anabaptist Centre through its web site and was intrigued by the Christian Peacemaker Team reports from Iraq she read there.

“Eun-Ha is very comfortable with our faith emphasis, so much so, that she asked whether she could list Korea Anabaptist Centre as her sending organization,” said Tim Froese, of Mennonite Church Canada Witness, who is co-director of the centre.

The centre decided to adopt Yoo. On March 5, centre staff committed themselves to prayer for Yoo’s ministry in Iraq and had a ceremony of blessing. The next day, Yoo and the peace team began their pilgrimage to Iraq.

“This represents a remarkable leading by God, a significant new chapter in the life and witness of Korea Anabaptist Centre and a significant walk of faith by Eun-Ha,” Froese said.

Froese, who played an instrumental role in the centre’s establishment, said media interest in the centre’s peace ministry has dramatically increased in the past few weeks and visits to the web site, http://www. koreaanabaptistcentre.org/, have more than quintupled.

For the past 10 years, Yoo has felt God moving her into mission among Muslims. A Presbyterian, she engaged passionately in evangelism through church structures and though Seoul’s Campus Evangelization Network.

As tension built in Iraq, Yoo sought for a way to express her desire to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict. She was delighted to find a Christian group at the Korea Anabaptist Centre that views peacemaking as an integral part of the gospel.

According to Jae Young Lee, a staff member at the centre, most Korean churches avoid political involvement. “Churches that talk about pacifism automatically get in trouble with the government,” he said.

Froese explained that the Korean church finds talk of discipleship and Christian community attractive, but a commitment to nonviolent peacemaking is foreign and often misunderstood.

Yoo and two team members hope to remain in Iraq for the next two months. The others on the team plan to assist with refugee relief efforts from Jordan.

In commenting on the American attack on Iraq, Jae Young Lee said, “I don’t think this is only a crisis for Iraq, but it is a crisis for American democracy and people who believe in the power of freedom, justice and peace. The only people who can change this sad reality are Americans. Americans are the only people who can make their president listen and fear the power of the people.

“America is the country where I studied about peace, justice and reconciliation. [Americans] are the ones who inspired me to change my [military] career to the peace building field. I am asking you, my beloved American friends, not to kill my friends in Iraq.”

Lee graduated from Canadian Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg, Manitoba, now part of Canadian Mennonite University. He also in 2002 completed a master’s degree in conflict transformation at Eastern Mennonite University. He is now the Korea Anabaptist Centre’s representative in a 14-member conflict-resolution group that does research and writing for the South Korean context.

The war in Iraq and the escalating tensions between North and South Korea set the stage for spirited discussion in the ministry of the year-old Korea Anabaptist Centre. “It is difficult to imagine countries more problematic or more in need of mission than Iraq and North Korea,” Froese said. “It is also difficult to imagine two approaches to these countries more different than war and mission.

“War involves the forcible and intentional taking of life with the frequent result that souls are sent to hell. Mission involves self-giving and vulnerability. Its purpose is to invite people to heaven. The mission of God is a needed alternative to war. If only we invested more people and resources in mission, perhaps we would see less war today.”

Tim and Karen Froese are Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers in Seoul, Korea. Here they work to bring the message of discipleship, peace, and community through the Jesus Village Church and the recently established Korea Anabaptist Centre (KAC). Karen and Tim Froese and their children moved in 1998 from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Seoul.