Thursday, 22 August 2019

Inspiring Next Gen Ecumenism

Written by Emily Evans

More than 80 young people from WCC member churches and partners around the world participated in a Korean pilgrimage of justice and peace that included a visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which has divided the Korean Peninsula since 1953. 

Under the theme “Walking with Peace, Reclaiming Hope”, I joined a passionate group of young pilgrims from all over the world seeking to enhance global solidarity among young people and inspire them to engage in the ecumenical movement. 

The pilgrimage was co-hosted by the Ecumenical Youth Council in Korea (EYCK), the youth-arm of National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK), and the World Council of Churches (WCC), and coincided with the International Youth Day on 12 August and Korea Liberation Day on 15 August, marking its independence from Japan

It was followed by a three-day meeting with the WCC’s ECHOS Commission, an advisory body of the WCC on Youth engagement within the Ecumenical movement.

I was present in my role as ECHOS Commission vice Moderator.

Prayer, reflection and dialogue were the backbone of the pilgrimage.

As well as walking along the Demilitarised Zone, our time included travelling to Daejon and Nogeun-ri, both places of massacre during the Korean War in 1950. It was a poignant reminder of the wounds of such atrocities and led us to explore deeply the work of peace, healing and reconciliation in Korea.  

The highlight of the pilgrimage for me was joining together in prayer with young people from the different corners of the world as part of the yearly Prayer Worship for Peace and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula. It illustrated the importance of solidarity within the international ecumenical movement. Together we prayed in shared hope for an end to the 74-year division of the two Koreas.  

During the three-day meeting, members of ECHOS Commission went through bylaws, shared debriefs of youth pilgrimages and reported back from commissions and reference groups. I moderated the discernment process revising the bylaws of the Commission’s work for the next generation of Commissioners, seeking to embed more deeply young people’s prophetic voices in the ecumenical movement.

Often when attending WCC meetings I am sitting at the tables with senior church leaders and often ask “where are the young people?”

Without the voices, active engagement and commitment from young people, the ecumenical movement will simply fade from significance.

Therefore, there needs to be a commitment to the formation of young people as participants and ambassadors for the ecumenical movement at all levels, from local to global.

It is our hope that the revised direction and strategy of the Commission will allow the voice of young people to be heard.  

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Photos: World Council of Churches