In 2012, when I was at the Duke Divinity School Center for Reconciliation, we looked at rising conflicts around the globe and decided to gather 28 Christian leaders from China, Japan, Korea, and the U.S. to discern the signs of the times and ask if a fresh space was needed to further peace and reconciliation in Northeast Asia. It was a rare meeting of Protestant and Catholic, academics and church leaders and practitioners. It was awkward at times and there were many surprises. One Hong Kong church leader said he had never seen so many Japanese Christians in one room–six! (Christians are less than 1% of Japan’s population, but what a terrific sextet we had). For three days we worshiped together, ate together, wrestled with Scripture together, and talked deeply about historical wounds and current divides and rising tensions in the region. At times it was contentious. But unexpected joy and laughter too.
At the end, the group called for a new initiative to nourish Christian leadership, theology, mission, and collaboration for the ministry of reconciliation in Northeast Asia.
Over the three years since, a core group who were largely strangers to one another have become companions in organizing what we now call the Christian Forum for Reconciliation in Northeast Asia–a kind of “theological fueling station” for the difficult work of peace and reconciliation. After Duke in 2012 (Duke is still a core partner and Mennonite Central Committee is a newer one), we expanded the group in South Korea in 2014 and then Nagasaki Japan in 2015, and this year we meet in Hong Kong.
I am happy to introduce the Forum’s new web site at neareconciliation.com. Below are three of my favorite stories posted there which embody the “new we” at the heart of our vision which we believe God is about, even in this time of rising tensions.