Mid-Missouri group organizes Olympic watch party
COLUMBIA - As a pastor at the Korean First Presbyterian Church, Hanjoo Park is no stranger to talking about peace. He said when he got a call asking him to speak at the Olympic Watch Party for Peace Friday night, he wanted to help spread this message.
"At my congregation we are pro-peace," Park said. "We are here to support peace."
The coordinator of the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation, Jeff Stack, said he and other members organized the event in celebration of the spirit of the Olympics. He said it's a time to encourage peace on the Korean Peninsula.
"The Olympics historically have been a time of peace," Stack said. "People have come together from all kinds of nations, set aside their differences and strife in trying to celebrate our diversity and camaraderie, trying to get along with sisters and brothers."
Park immigrated to the United States more than two decades ago. He said it's important for nations to communicate with one another.
"Scripture teaches us we must be just to, and loving each other," Park said. "So there should be justice, but at the same time, not punishing and war, but peacefully. And that's what I preach about."
Stack said he wants people to reflect on the reality of "what's gone on on the peninsula over the decades."
"The Cold War dinosaur really continues," Stack said. "There was an armistice of sorts, but no peace treaty. That's obscene."
Making diplomacy and peace a norm is a standard goal of the fellowship, however, Stack said there is a particular goal for the watch party.
"In this specific situation, with the Olympics taking place in South Korea, it seemed really opportune to highlight the tension that has gone on in the Korean Peninsula for so long," he said.
Although the event was the only of its kind in the Midwest, Stack said it's one of about 30 nationally.
According to a document from the Olympic Call to Action for Peace, the Fellowship of Reconciliation is part of an "ad hoc network", known as the Korea Collaboration, looking to promote weeks of action during the period of the Olympic Truce, which is Feb. 2 - March 25.
The truce, approved by the United Nations General Assembly in November, calls for a "cessation of hostilities" during both the Winter Olympics and Paralympics. According to the document, 157 member states, including both Koreas and the United States are participating.
Stack said he hopes all countries will continue "down the path of peace", and the Koreas will "help show the way".
"Maybe people will come together and look at the Koreas and say, 'if they can do this, maybe we can as well,'" he said. "There could be, hopefully, a domino effect of peace. This could be a great first step for peace."
Stack is not alone. The Olympic Call to Action for Peace said President Donald Trump, encouraged by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, decided to postpone war drills between the U.S. and South Korea, which would have overlapped with the Olympics.
According to the group, delaying the war drills could pave the way to a deal in which the U.S. and South Korea would suspend military exercises in exchange for a ban on North Korean nuclear and missile testing.
Stack said it's time to recognize the harm caused to people all over the world by military forces.
"We need to recognize that such talk is imprudent," he said. "It's time for us to recognize that we should try to build a global community of humanity, to help those in need. Not waging war."