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People often seem surprised when they learn I have spent a significant time in recent years working on peace with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, commonly known as North Korea. Perhaps it is the combination of who I am and where I work that has given me the passion for peacebuilding in one of the most difficult regions of the world.
I am a peace pastor in the Mennonite church and work as part of the advocacy team of Pax Christi International, the international Catholic peace movement, at the United Nations. Mennonites and Catholic peace people take seriously the Sermon on the Mount.
Although North Korea and the United States do not have diplomatic relations, North Korea is a member of the United Nations and has diplomatic staff that live in New York and work out of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Mission to the United Nations. Some of my most important peacebuilding efforts in recent years have been reaching out and befriending North Korean diplomats and their families. North Koreans in the United States are restricted to a radius of 25 miles from Columbus Circle in New York City. My home, fortunately, is just within the permitted zone for North Korean diplomats.
Human relationships are the foundation of peacebuilding.
Some years ago, I invited the diplomats from the North Korean Mission to the U.N. for a picnic at my home, along with a South Korean Mennonite International Voluntary Exchange Program (IVEP) intern, a Korean-American Mennonite pastor friend and a few Korean American friends active in the peace movement. It was an amazing day, 20 North Korean diplomats, wives, children and grandchildren, fishing in the stream behind my home, eating, drinking, laughing and playing. There was no political talk or strategizing on that day (although those kinds of conversations did happen later, after trust had been established), just meeting the diplomats, their wives, children and grandchildren and enjoying each other’s company. It was through friendship and conversation that I learned that the North Koreans want the same things we do: safe communities for our families, health care and education for our children and grandchildren and meaningful and productive work for ourselves. At the end of the day, the senior North Korean ambassador came over to the young IVEP intern from South Korea and said, “This war has gone on too long. We really need to end the conflict and reunify our country.” The intern readily agreed.
Human relationships are the foundation of peacebuilding. The challenge in building relationships between Americans and Koreans from both the North and the South is formidable. North and South Korea do not have diplomatic relations with each other. Even phone, mail or email connections between the two Koreas is prohibited. The United States also does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea. North Korea is one of the countries whose citizens are prohibited from traveling to the United States, and a U.S. travel ban makes it illegal for any American to travel to North Korea without a Special Validation Passport. The travel ban has eliminated all tourism, academic and cultural travel by Americans to North Korea, although Mennonite Central Committee, American Friends Service Committee and a few other nongovernment organizations have received Special Validation Passports to travel to North Korea for small-scale humanitarian efforts. I have learned that personal encounter and face-to-face dialogue enhance understanding, dispels some of the stereotypes of the “other” and can even result in friendships that can lay the foundation for solving larger political problems. But with sanctions and travel restrictions, few Americans, South Koreans or others ever have an opportunity to meet a North Korean in person.
For the past two years, I have been working with religious leaders to organize a forum to bring together diplomats, scholars and peace activists from South Korea, the United States, Russia, China and Japan to meet with North Koreans. Our first challenge was to find a location where guests from around the world could meet personally with North Koreans. After considerable discussion we decided to organize our forum in New York at Columbia University, so North Korean diplomats at the U.N. could come to a location were others could meet them. We decided to organize the Global Peace Forum on Korea at the end of the week of the opening of the General Assembly of the U.N. with the hope that several scholars from Kim Il Sung University in North Korea would be able to come for the opening of the GA and participate in the peace forum. Unfortunately, both years we have organized this conference, none of our invited scholars from North Korea was able to get U.S. visas. But due to trust built through personal friendships, we did have full cooperation from North Korean U.N. diplomats. We invited more than 100 scholars, religious leaders, peace activists and a few government officials from South Korea, Russia, China, Japan and the United States. I have been impressed by the fact that the participants of this forum paid their own way, often flying from Asia, for an opportunity to meet face-to-face and share ideas with North Koreans. U.N. officials who had also been invited commented that the Global Peace Forum on Korea was unique; it was the only meeting those officials had ever attended where the North Korean participants mingled and spoke freely with participants from the United States, South Korea and other nations.
Out of that amazing mix of scholars, religious leaders, peace activists and government officials, we reached a consensus that we all hoped would be a roadmap for government negotiations to follow.
Out of that amazing mix of scholars, religious leaders, peace activists and government officials, we reached a consensus that we all hoped would be a roadmap for government negotiations to follow: (1) ending the Korean War; (2) calling the United States and North Korea to take reciprocal steps to de-escalate tensions and normalize relations; (3) requesting that North Korean actions in disarmament be responded to with reciprocal U.S. lifting of economic sanctions; (4) calling for the creation of a nuclear-free zone on the Korean Peninsula as relations are normalized and sanctions against North Korea are lifted. With the failure of the Hanoi Summit and the United States blocking inter-Korean efforts to connect roads and railroads between their countries, we reaffirmed our roadmap for negotiations and chose the theme for this year, “Making Connections : Global Challenges, Korea and Peaceful Coexistence.” The organizers continue to believe relationships between people across the national and ideological boundaries are the building blocks for the political consensus needed for building peace on the Korean Peninsula. Religious leaders gave strong support for this effort. Jim Winkler, president of the National Council of Churches, gave a keynote speech with warm greetings and encouragement from Cardinal Joseph Tobin, and Peter Prove, director of the International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, offered closing remarks. We also heard messages of support and encouragement from former President Jimmy Carter and Rosemary DiCarlo, the U.N. Undersecretary General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs. The unique strength of the peace forum, however, was the personal involvement of the North Korean diplomats, who made themselves available to speak, listen and build relationships with the other participants. These relationships have the power to turn enemies into friends.
Doug Hostetter is peace pastor at Evanston (Ill.) Mennonite Church, member of the Pax Christi International UN Advocacy Team and a Co-Chair of Global Peace Forum on Korea.
Love Your Enemies was first published in the December issue of The Mennonite, and is being reprinted with their permission.
UN representative for disarmament, Geneva, Pax Christi International
26 November 2019
This is an up-date about the effort to prohibit autonomous weapons. The opposition to a ban brings to mind the same apartheid-style dynamics which allow a few states to have nuclear weapons. Now there are signs of a similar double standard emerging around killer robots. Pax Christi International is a member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.
The CCW, a Geneva-based convention designed to prohibit especially bad weapons, has been discussing lethal robotic weapons since 2013. Its findings mostly point to the urgent need to impose a pre-emptive ban on any weapon which would select and kill human beings on its own.
This year’s “debate” ended 14-16 November 2019 and the outcome was modest once again.
States parties to the CCW agreed to adopt a brief set of “guiding principles” developed over the last two years. These are rather broad, for example, international law shall apply to all future weapons systems and humans are responsible and accountable for the use of weapons which have autonomous capabilities. The CCW says it will aim to “operationalize” the principles in the next two years.
So little has been accomplished that news stories from previous CCW meetings could be recycled. “Yet again, a small group of military powers have shown an appalling lack of ambition and zero sense of urgency…on lethal autonomous weapons systems,” the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots said earlier in 2019, and much the same in 2018 as well.
Which states are blocking constructive action? Russia, USA, Israel, United Kingdom and Australia, in the main. All either have or rely on nuclear weapons. They argue that existing international law is sufficient. Yet they and other nuclear-dependent states haven’t fulfilled their legal obligation under the NPT to eliminate nuclear weapons. They refuse to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which is largely based on International Humanitarian Law and reinforces the NPT.
Many of the other states in the CCW want new legal controls based on IHL. The guardian of the laws of war, the International Committee of the Red Cross, is calling for new rules to address the legal, ethical and humanitarian concerns raised by autonomous weapons
The blockers also give short shrift to calls for rigorous application of International Human Rights Law to autonomous weapon systems. Yet it was the UN Human Rights Council which first brought the issue of killer robots to the CCW out of concern for extra-judicial killings.
While a few powerful states dither and delay, technology is steadily advancing. Weapons with algorithms that select and strike targets on their own are not much “smarter” than the self-driving cars being tested today.
Fortunately, support for common-sense controls and preventive measures is building–at the CCW and far beyond. Recent examples:
30 countries plus the Non-Aligned Movement of 120 states are calling for a prohibition of fully autonomous weapons.
Austria, Brazil and Chile are calling for a CCW mandate to negotiate “a legally-binding instrument to ensure meaningful human control over the critical functions” of weapons systems.
In September 2018, the European Parliament called for negotiations of such a ban.
Foreign ministers of Germany and Belgium have called for a ban.
More than 60-percent of the public in 26 countries are opposed to the development of weapons that would select and attack targets on their own, according to a recent poll.
4,500 AI experts and 116 CEOs of robotics companies have called on the United Nations to take action on robotic weapons systems.
More than 240 tech companies and 3,200 tech workers have pledged never to develop, produce or use autonomous weapons systems.
The Synod of the Protestant Church in Germany called for a ban on killer robots while the CCW was meeting in November.
The core of this majoritarian concern is to respect the moral threshold that machines must not be allowed to kill people.
Nuclear weapons pose a grave risk which a large majority of states have addressed unequivocally. Killer robots impose a responsibility which many states are recognizing, which no state can escape and which all states must answer.
Co-Chair Planning Committee, Global Peace Forum on Korea
Global Peace Forum Korea
The second Global Peace Forum on Korea, held at Columbia University in New York City on Saturday, September 28th 2019. The forum brought together for a day of formal and informal discussion over a hundred scholars, religious leaders, and peace activists from the US, Russia, Canada and Vietnam with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) UN diplomats, and Members of the National Assembly (and numerous civil society activist) from the Republic of Korea (South Korea). The theme this year was “Making Connections: Global Challenges, Korea and Peaceful Coexistence.” The meeting opened with a challenge from President Jimmy Carter. “Thank you for coming together to build the international relationships and support that are necessary to complete this process and fulfill the vision and promise of the Singapore Summit for a ‘new era of peace and a peaceful land’ in Korea.”
Human relationships are the foundation of peacebuilding. The challenge in building relationships between Americans and Koreans from both the North and South is formidable. North and South Korea do not have diplomatic relations. Even phone, mail or email connections between the two Koreas is prohibited. The US also does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea and North Korea is one of the countries whose citizens are prohibited from traveling to the US, and a US travel ban makes it illegal for any American to travel to North Korea without a “Special Validation Passport.” The travel ban has eliminated all tourism, academic and cultural travel by American to North Korea, although Quakers, Mennonites and a few other non-government organizations have occasionally been allowed to travel to North Korea for small scale humanitarian efforts. With sanctions and travel restrictions, few Americans, South Koreans or other people of the world have ever met a North Korean in person. The Global Peace Forum on Korea was organized to remediate that problem, at least for the participants of the Forum. ”Read more here”.
(a l’occasion de l’ouverture de l’atelier de formation des formateurs du reseau Pax Christi des Grands Lacs, Kinshasa, 18-22 aout 2019)
Monsieur le coordinateur régional de Pax Christi International pour l’Afrique, et mesdames et messieurs les participants:
Il m’est un grand plaisir et un grand honneur de me mettre devant vous pour vous adresser ce petit mot de bienvenue. Je le fais d’abord en ma qualité du directeur du CIAM-Afrique, une des organisations partenaires de Pax Christi International. Ensuite, je me mets devant vous en ma qualité de membre du comité directeur de Pax Christi International. Pour exprimer mes sentiments je n’ai que des mots. Malheureusement, les mots ne traduisent pas toujours fidèlement tout ce qui est dans le cœur de l’homme. Puisque c’est l’instrument que la nature et la culture ont mis à notre portée, je l’utilise tout de même malgré son imperfection pour vous exprimer mes sentiments de fraternité et d’amitié à vous tous ici présents: sentez-vous chez vous!
Mesdames et messieurs les participants,
Nous sommes réunis ici dans le cadre d’un atelier de formation des formateurs du réseau Pax Christi des Grands Lacs dont les objectifs sont:
Apprendre les méthodes d’actions non violentes, à être artisan de paix et à les appliquer aux problèmes auxquels on est confronté;
Aider les candidats-formateurs à découvrir en eux cette force de vie intérieure, libératrice et transformatrice des injustices;
Connaître le réseau Pax Christi des Grands Lacs, son projet et son exécution; concevoir des outils de gestion de ce projet;
Entrepreneuriat des jeunes: création et gestion des AGR.
Mesdames et messieurs les participants,
Comme vous le savez peut être, Pax Christi International est une organisation catholique non gouvernementale pour la paix. Elle a été fondée en 1945 après la seconde guerre mondiale comme mouvement de réconciliation entre les français et les allemands. En effet, l’année prochaine en mai 2020, PCI fêtera ses 75 ans d’existence. Cependant, l’aspiration pour la paix est encore loin d’être réalisée. Des conflits persistent; pensez au cycle de violences et de guerres dans la Région des Grands Lacs.
Nous avons besoin désespérément de la paix: « Pax vobis » (Luc 24, 36). Ce sont les paroles de Jésus adressées à ses disciples après la résurrection. Ces paroles ont été utilisées par les pères de l’Eglise et continuent à être utilisées dans la liturgie catholique dans l’échange de paix. Le monde, loin d’avoir besoin de la nourriture d’abord, le monde et surtout la Région des Grands Lacs ont plus besoin de la paix. Si nous avons la paix, nous aurons la nourriture pour tout le monde.
Mesdames et messieurs les participants,
Permettez-moi de vous raconter une histoire qui me parait très suggestive. L’histoire est écrite par un certain Mr. Nassan:
“There is a huge statue of Christ holding a cross on the Andes, between the countries of the Argentine and Chile. The story of that statue is worth knowing. Once the Argentine and Chile were about to go to war with one another. They were quarreling over some land which each said belonged to them. So both countries started to prepare for war. Then on Easter Sunday, bishops in Argentine and Chile began to urge peace. They went round their countries crying out for peace in the name of Christ. The people did not want war and in the end they made their governments talk peace with one another, instead of war. … The big guns, instead of being used for fighting, were melted down and made into the great big bronze statue of Christ. It now stands on the mountains between the two countries.”
Mesdames et messieurs les participants,
Nous devons promouvoir la paix à tout prix. La paix n’est pas conquise par la force, elle est plutôt l’aboutissement d’une compréhension d’ensemble. Albert Einstein disait: « Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding ». C’est malheureux que notre monde et surtout la Région des Grands Lacs puissent sombrer dans une recrudescence de violences et de guerres pendant que la jeunesse est là, croisant les bras. En effet, la jeunesse est une période de la vie qui devrait plutôt nous donner l’opportunité d’accomplir quelque chose de neuf et de devenir un nouvel homme: « Rien n’est trop difficile pour la jeunesse », dit-on. Nous espérons que la paix est possible pourvu que la jeunesse s’y engage. Et le moyen pour y arriver c’est la non-violence. Mohandas Gandhi déclarait: « My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God and non-violence is the means to reach Him ».
Que vive Pax Christi International! Que vive la paix dans la Région des Grands Lacs! J’ai dit et je vous remercie!