“A religious person must do more than just missionary work. Religious people must work together within their communities to solve common social problems. The issue of the divided Korean peninsula should be viewed in this light. When you reach out and help those who suffer, they will meet God through you. This is how true missionary work can be done.”

Bishop Sunday Ndukwo Onuoha of the World Methodist Church was one of twenty Korean civic and religious leaders of different faiths at a meeting in Seoul, Korea over the summer of 2018 to address the topic of peace on the Korean peninsula.

Civic and religious leaders collaborate for grassroots efforts for reunification on the Korean peninsula

Bishop Onuoha is a Nigerian American who is passionate about promoting peace and reconciliation in Nigerian communities with deep-seated sectarian tensions and violence. As the Executive Director of the Nigerian Inter-Faith Action Association (NIFAA) and founder and president of Vision Africa, he has been working collaboratively with faith leaders of varying religious backgrounds to combat poverty and disease in Nigeria.

As his experience has proved, Bishop Onuoha believes that people of different faiths working together have a more significant impact in addressing social problems than any one group could do alone or amidst animosity developed through identity-based conflict.

In Nigeria’s religiously divided communities, Bishop Onuoha was able to bring Christians and Muslims together to work toward the eradication and prevention of malaria. Nigeria has the highest incidence of malaria in the world with over 207,000 deaths reported annually and 97% of the population at risk for infection. Through the vehicle of Vision Africa, faith leaders worked together to raise awareness of the disease and taught residents how to install mosquito nets which significantly reduced the prevalence of malaria.

Bishop Onuoha also spoke about Korea’s March First Independence Movement of 1919 and cited other historical examples of social movements around the world to illustrate the significance of people of different backgrounds and faiths working together in bringing about peaceful social transformation.

Gandhi (center) with other peaceful protestors in the Salt March

Gandhi reached out to people beyond the Hindu faith to advance India’s independence from Great Britain; Nelson Mandela embraced blacks and whites while endeavoring to end apartheid in South Africa; the civil rights movement in the United States under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. attracted the support of different religious, racial and political groups.

Though the March First Movement did not lead to a free, independent and united Korea, the independence leaders who came from different faiths including Christianity, Buddhism, and Cheondoism, were able to unify millions of Koreans to peacefully protest colonial rule. The spirit of the March First Movement is re-emerging nearly 100 years later in Action for Korea United’s current global campaign for the reunification of the two Koreas. Bishop Onuoha said resolutely, “I believe that reunification of the Korean Peninsula will happen.”

In the preceding weeks, the World Methodist Council, consisting of hundreds of members from around the world including Bishop Onuoha, gathered at Kwanglim Methodist Church in Seoul to pray for those suffering in North Korea. Bishop Onuoha pointed out that only a few churches remain out of the thousands that existed in Pyongyang decades ago and that all religious people must stand up for the God-given rights and freedoms of all people.