U.S. Region of the Columbans Responds to the U.S. – North Korea Crisis

August 11, 2017

Tensions between the United States and North Korea have reached a dangerous turning point. There is no military solution. We must act now to prevent the prospect of a nuclear war.

To prevent further escalation of military threats, and the real danger of a deepening spiral of violence becoming a regional or global conflict, we must pursue every means possible to de-escalate tensions through positive engagement with North Korea. We call on leaders of all nations, but particularly the United States, North Korea and South Korea, to pursue all paths to peace and all channels of dialogue and inclusive negotiation. The fate of millions of lives, the environment, and world peace is at stake.

As missionary priests and lay missionaries of the Society of St. Columban, we have a long history serving the poor in fourteen countries, including on the Korean peninsula. Thirty-five years ago the Society issued this statement on nuclear armaments from our 1982 General Assembly:

“Christian discipleship leads us to condemn in strongest terms defense policies that every day make life more insecure. The most blatant of these are present policies of nuclear armament which threaten all life. These policies are themselves a form of killing since they consume resources desperately needed to meet basic human needs.”

We must not lose this hope for the human family, and future generations of life on earth. Diplomacy has worked before with North Korea. It can again save lives and promote peace.

In June 2017, one hundred and twenty-two non-nuclear nations gathered at the United Nations and approved a global treaty to ban nuclear weapons, a move that supporters hope will lead to the eventual elimination of all nuclear arms. In a statement to the nations gathered at the UN, Pope Francis called for a “collective and concerted” multilateral effort to eliminate nuclear weapons:

“These concerns are even greater when we consider the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences that would follow from any use of nuclear weapons, with devastating, indiscriminate and uncontainable effects, over time and space…. The common destiny of humankind demands the pragmatic strengthening of dialogue and the building and consolidating of mechanisms of trust and cooperation, capable of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons,” the pope added, and he called on nations to sign the treaty.

We recommend the following actions as a means to de-escalate the tensions and promote the denuclearization and eventual demilitarization of the peninsula:

  • North Korea to refrain from further nuclear and missile tests;
  • United States and South Korea to refrain from ongoing joint military exercises;
  • On August 13 to join with Christians throughout the world to pray for peace and to observe a “Sunday of Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula.”

On August 15, both North and South Korea commemorate the end of the Japanese occupation and World War II. May this date be a reminder that the desire for peace is shared by all people.

As we commemorate the seventy-second anniversary of the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and remember the horrendous loss of life, let us call on world leaders to join together in a united effort to avoid at all costs the threat of nuclear war, and to work toward a peaceful and negotiated solution to this dangerous impasse on the Korean peninsula.

Pope Francis is very clear: The total elimination of nuclear weapons is “both a challenge and a moral and humanitarian imperative” of our time. In that spirit, we ask you to join us in prayer and effective action and to call upon our nation and the nations of the world, as well as Christians and people of all faiths, to work for a negotiated solution to the threat of nuclear war, and to pray for peace.