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‘Peace Pilgrimage’ to South Korea October 2015

by Subhash Chandra Kattel, Friends Peace Teams AWP in Nepal

I came back home after a very warm two-week long Peace Pilgrimage visit to South Korea. The visit included two parts. During the first week, I participated in the War Resisters’ International (WRI) Council Meeting and international conference organized by WRI UK, World Without War Korea, and Women Making Peace Korea. During the second week, I facilitate a one-day AVP Discernment workshop with local peace workers in Korea and meeting with longtime peace activists and Friends.

The visit became more public when a well-respected local online media published my interview just before my travel there. The interview is in Korean; sad for non-Korean speakers. The interview includes significant positive influence of Friends in my journey as peace worker and, my involvement in Friends Peace Teams AWP and our grass root peace work.

 

Nonviolent direct action we organized in Seoul Korea and said to the war profiteers, "Arms Dealers are NOT welcome here. Stop the war business." War lords have to listen to us one day, if now now!

The first week was highlighted by our nonviolent direct action to #stopADEX (you can find this # in Facebook or Twitter, if you are interested). We protested against the war profiteers who were also gathered in Seoul at the same time to sell their arms. The title of our conference was “Stop the War Business”.

I documented a conversation with a friend on the way to Korea: A Korean friend sitting next to me in the plane from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul asked, “Why are you visiting Korea?”

I said to attend a program called “Stopping the War Business”.

After a few minutes of silence, the friend asked, “Can you really stop the war business? There are so my wars going on in the world today. All major rich countries are involved in the war business.”

I replied, “Right now I am unable to say exactly when, but with full confidence I can say that one day we will be able to stop the war business that is going on now in the world.
I have two real historical examples for you of such changes.

First, there was Sati Pratha in our region in Asia. Until some point in history, a widow either immolated or was forced to immolate herself on her husband’s pyre or to commit suicide in another fashion shortly after her husband’s death. A few daring people started to object and defy that devilish practice, which must have seemed almost impossible to stop at that time. Slowly momentum evolved with the force of humanity and the time came when this ill practice had to end, not only officially, but in practice too. Human civilization could not carry on such an inhumane practice any longer.

Second, like many others at the time of her youth, my grandmother was married at seven years old. It was too much to accept this as a norm or ‘social law’ A few so-called trouble makers objected, then a growing number of people slowly began to refuse to marry girls so young. Many could not do this to their own daughters. Sadly, this practice still exists in some parts of the world, but when my mother was married, she was 14 years old. It was better, but not enough. The same force, the nonviolent truth-force of humanity, continued and strengthened. People strongly felt this was too early to get married. And, few years back when my wife and I got married, she was 26 years old. This is physically and mentally mature enough age to get married.

So, yes, we can stop the war business too. We just have to keep strengthening and carry on the nonviolent movements and actions our forefather and mothers started at some points in history, and make it even more effective and powerful. One day we will be able to stop the wars, the war business, and the ugly greed of war profiteers. Then the world will be without wars. That is why I am visiting Korea, I rather call it a peace pilgrimage.

 

Subhash Kattel speaking in the AVP discernment workshop at the Nonviolent Peaceforce Korea, Seoul office on 20th October 2015.

The second week began by facilitating a one-day workshop on Discernment hosted by Nonviolent Peaceforce Korea. Before my visit, Nadine established my friendship with Friend Dr. Sung Yong Park who I found inspiring and deeply committed to the idea and power of Circles. Dr. Park coordinated the workshop where 19 people from different walks of life came to participate. Nadine also helped me from a distance prepare the workshop agenda. One of the participants Dr. Nami Lee, Research Professor at Hanyang University reflected on the workshop at the end by saying, “I did not know how to stop and discern, and I was making my like hell putting myself in such a crazy mess of workloads. Now I feel calm and better. I am very happy to learn how and why I need to stop and discern. I hope I will have a happier life ahead.”

 

 

 

Dr. Park and his wife with Subhash after the completion the workshop, October 2015, Seoul Korea.

Afterward, meeting with an 85 year-old elder Friend and Peace Veteran Hang Woo Lee remained an encouraging experience. Mr. Lee has been working for the reunification of Korean Peninsula for many years. He encourages us to get connected with the Korean Friends to promote peace in the region.

During the last night of my visit, I asked Dr. Park, “What motivates you to work hard for peace?” He said, “My anger inside about what is happening in the world. I translate my energy of anger to my peace initiatives.” We concluded our meeting with the hope that Dr. Park will be visiting Nepal during the AVP International Gathering in 2017 and the possibility of his visiting Indonesia in 2016 for the third annual International Peace Training at Peace Place in Pati, Central Java, Indonesia coming up 4 – 10 January 2016. And, finally, I thank Nadine for sending a supporting letter from Friends Peace Teams AWP to the Korean Embassy in Nepal to support my visa application for this visit.

AVP discernment workshop participants at the Nonviolent Peaceforce Korea, Seoul office on 20th October. Dr. Nami Lee sitting third from right (cross legged in the light blue jacket).