What’s the story?
After months of worrying stories about the activities of North Korea and its apparently warmongering leader Kim Jong-un, there is suddenly a renewed sense of international optimism about the country... thanks to the work of some unlikely players
In increasingly unstable times, perhaps the biggest felt threat to world peace has been the escalating war of words, tweets and missile tests between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and American President Donald Trump. The North Koreans have frequently tested missiles capable – if optimised correctly – of reaching US soil, while President Trump has responded by threatening that an ultimate form of defence would be used if necessary. It’s one of the reasons that the so-called Doomsday Clock, which measures the chance of global annihilation, has moved closer to midnight in the past year.
So it has been a cause of tentative celebration to see two significant events happen in and around the Korean peninsula which begin to suggest that a different story may be unfolding. First, Kim Jong-un shocked the world by becoming the first North Korean leader to step on South Korean soil as part of a peace summit with the South’s President Moon Jae-in. The two men were all smiles as they posed for photos in the demilitarised zone between the two nations – a clear signal that historically frosty relations between them might finally be thawing.
Then, Kim Jong-un announced that he would close his country’s nuclear test site, in co-operation with global pressure led by the US. With a face-to-face meeting with Trump planned in May, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claims that there is now a ‘real opportunity’ for major progress, as long as the North agrees to implement ‘irreversible’ change. Pompeo met in secret with Mr Kim several weeks ago when employed as the CIA director, and apparently agreed details of a denuclearisation deal with him.
Often it seems like the only narrative around nations like North Korea is one of escalation, and almost inevitably the need for eventual conflict. However, it could be that for once, political intervention – combined with an awful lot of worldwide prayer – has actually succeeded.
What have others been saying?
The Guardian editorial leader column called the inter-Korean talks ‘progress – for now...’
Meanwhile the Financial Times called the meeting ‘historic’, and explored its international significance in this short vlog.
And Christian Today said that the summit wasn’t just diplomacy, but ‘an answer to prayer.’
#1 – PRAYING FOR PEACE
As others have speculated, the huge amount of prayer that has been dedicated by Christians all around the world to the situation in Korea should not be overlooked as the situation appears to improve. The New Testament repeatedly calls on believers to ‘pursue peace’ (1 Peter 3:11) while Jesus himself blesses peacemakers in Matthew 5:9. The pursuit of peace is a Christian endeavour in which we have a key role to play: that of prayer. The untold story of the Dunkirk ‘miracle’, on which WW2 pivoted, includes the fact that King George VI called a global day of prayer at the time of the great civilian-led evacuation of Dunkirk beach – as pointed out by evangelist Canon J John when two movies about the event were released last year.
#2 – FEARING THE APOCALYPSE
Jesus told his followers in Matthew 24:6: ‘You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.’ And while many – including American televangelists who use such a verse to scaremonger people into buying post-rapture survival goods – often see this as Jesus almost encouraging an acceptance of war, there is perhaps more going on. As well as wars, Jesus tells his friends that there will be much speculation and fear about the possibility of awful international conflict. He’s very clear though: such rumours should not be regarded with alarm, for whatever ever happens, they will not lead to the end of the world. Only God knows the time and hour of that, and it will not be caused by human hand.
Points for prayer
Pray for continuing moves toward peace in the Korean peninsula, and around the world.
Pray for the leaders involved, that they would demonstrate good character to one another, not falling into disputes or distrust.
Pray for Christians in North Korea, that their persecution would be radically eased as a result of these new diplomatic conversations.
Pray for nuclear disarmament, in Korea, the US and right around the world.
Pray for more positive news stories like this, as countries are reconciled instead of fearing and turning on each other.
Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy Chief Executive. A former editor of Youthwork magazine and the founding Editor of sister-title Childrenswork, Martin is a popular speaker and the author of various books including ‘Youth Work From Scratch’. He lives in Reigate, Surrey with his wife Jo and their four children.