File image: REUTERS/Kyodo [Former South Korean President Moon Jae In delivers a speech at a ceremony in Seoul on 19 Sept. 2023, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the 2018 inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang at which Mr Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a joint declaration.]

By Donnelly McCleland

The ongoing Ukraine-Russia war and the recent Israel-Gaza conflict have heightened concerns in other volatile regions and historical conflict zones in the world. On Thursday, 12 October, Taiwan’s Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said that a special task force had been set up to draw lessons from the surprise attack by Hamas on Israel. Taiwan has experienced increasing military and political pressure from China, which considers it part of its territory, including two major Chinese war games near the island since August 2022. Similarly, South Korea’s Defence Minister Shin Won-sik told reporters on 10 October, that he would push to suspend a 2018 inter-Korean military agreement in order to resume front-line surveillance on rival North Korea, as Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel raised concerns in South Korea about similar assaults by the North.

The primary responses to date have been to increase security, ramp up military spending, rescind cooperative agreements and mutually beneficial economic relationships, and demonise ‘the other’. However, there is clear evidence from both the Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Hamas conflicts that increased security apparatuses such as high-tech surveillance, walls/fences, borders, covert intelligence operations, and the like, were insufficient and ineffective in ultimately preventing the escalation of hostilities. It is particularly heartbreaking to realise when one examines many current conflicts throughout the world, that those involved have ethnic connections or communal cultural roots.

A Biblical example which springs to mind is the division of Israel into Israel and Judah, blood brothers at war with each other. Similarly, North and South Korea are considered two countries, but they were one nation, divided by the results of World War II and the ensuing Korean War. However, all are Korean and have centuries of shared history, both of victory and defeat. There are many on both sides of the DMZ (demilitarised zone) who dream of a united Korea, though visions of how this would look or be achieved differ. There have been many examples of peaceful and aggressive attempts to unify these two nations (but one people). The ‘Sunshine Policy’, under the South Korean administration of Kim Dae-jung (1998–2003), and Roh Moo-hyun (2003–08), produced many opportunities for increased (less hostile) interactions. Unfortunately, various incidents and influences led to the cooling of relations. However, following the election of Moon Jae-in in 2017, South Korea began reconciling with North Korea once more, thus beginning a revival of the Sunshine Policy. Mr Moon’s efforts to improve the inter-Korean relationship resulted in three inter-Korean summits in a year (2018). In recognition of his endeavours in inter-Korean relationships as the first president to hold multiple summits in a year, his version of the ‘Sunshine Policy’ became known as the “Moonshine Policy”.  Efforts were also made by the United States, a strong ally of South Korea, through then-President Donald Trump, to improve relations with North Korea through meetings between the three leaders. Historically, however, the ongoing war games of the combined forces of South Korea and the United States have continually proved to be a stumbling block in the attempts to improve relationships. Equally challenging has been North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and its dictatorial control of its citizens.

Taiwan has historical similarities, but also key differences. The current reality of the relationship between the Republic of China (ROC – Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC – Mainland China) is complicated. The two entities were birthed from the Cultural Revolution of 1949 and the overthrow of the government by Communist forces. The government fled to Taiwan where it initially planned to regroup and then reclaim the mainland territory. However, when these aspirations could not be fulfilled, the attention turned towards modernisation and economic development. The PRC’s ‘One-China’ principle states that Taiwan and mainland China are both part of China and that the PRC is the only legitimate government of China. Despite years of coexistence and extensive economic trade, the political environment has become increasingly complicated as the PRC has grown in economic and political influence. The potential for military conflict – should events outlined in the PRC’s Anti-Secession Law occur, such as Taiwan declaring de jure independence – continues to overshadow interactions between the ROC and PRC.

As these two examples (among several others) demonstrate, hostilities between people never occur in a vacuum, there is always a context. It is a multitude of incidences, from those between neighbours to those between rulers of empires. It involves disagreements, misunderstandings, greed, discrimination, power, politics, domination, and so much more. It would be accurate to claim that most citizens the world over hunger for peace. However, sin and the fallenness of humankind make it nigh on impossible to accomplish through entirely human efforts. Jesus encouraged His disciples in Matthew 6:10, to pray, “May Your Kingdom come; may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” He went on through His earthly ministry to demonstrate and teach what He meant and what He required of those who call Him Lord. The Scriptures also demonstrate in numerous instances that the Lord acts through people (including those who do not acknowledge His Lordship) to achieve His will on earth. Jesus encouraged His followers with these words in John 14:27a, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” The Lord’s peace surpasses any peace the world can offer, and it’s the kind of peace that can be experienced amid terrible war and turmoil. But, as His children, we are called to exhibit this unearthly ‘peace’ and demonstrate it in our actions towards others, whether with a contentious neighbour, a business competitor, or through more far-reaching geopolitical interactions between nations professing godly principles.

If situations prove to be so complicated that true reconciliation is out of reach, then at least tremendous efforts should be made to avoid war, to push back against the forces that profit from war, against the spirit of hatred and superiority. And the greatest weapon in our arsenal, as believers, is the gift of faith and prayer in an almighty, all-powerful, loving God. Let us not grow weary of interceding for these potentially volatile countries and regions, as well as those already embroiled in war and for all rulers and those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Please join us in prayer for the following:

  • For peaceful coexistence and mutual respect of others’ humanity to be prioritised over the relentless pursuit of power and domination
  • For the Lord’s light to shine into these dark places in the world, and that this light will be glaringly evident in His children’s interactions with others, including their enemies
  • For believers to not grow weary from interceding for these seemingly impossible conflict situations