May 11 2011

Unique Perspectives for Common Good

A few weeks ago, as the final project in our oral speaking class taught by Dr. Rubin, international students at Candler held a “Mini Symposium.”  The title of this symposium was “International Student Perspectives on Resolving Conflict in and through the Church.”  The presenters in our symposium consisted of six Korean students, including me, and two African students.  We felt wonderful community support from Candler faculty members (Rev. Ellen, Dr. Kraftchick, and Dr. Jenkins) and American students who came to listen to our presentations, and we had a great time sharing unique perspectives based on different social contexts and on resolving conflicts.  One purpose of our class was to enhance our ability of oral speaking in English, but as an international student at Candler, I also learned the importance of my presence at Candler.  Sometimes in my first year, I felt difficulties due to my different cultural aspects and social context from my American classmates.  However, through this symposium, I found that my differences contributed to diversity at Candler, and this diversity can serve to give unique insight to the dominant culture.

The topic of my presentation was a lesson from inter-religious dialogue in the ministry of Rev. Won Yong Kang.  First, I introduced a social conflict raised by some conservative Christian groups in South Korea.  In 2007, Christians Youth Union held a massive prayer gathering for the destruction of Buddhist temples; this gathering caused a serious social conflict among religions in South Korea.  In order to resolve such a conflict among religions, I suggested following the pattern of inter-religious dialogue among six major religions in South Korea like that led by Rev. Won Yong Kang in 1965 as an alternative in relationship among religions. (Rev. Won Yong Kang was a Korean Presbyterian pastor and studied at Union Theological Seminary, so he was greatly influenced by Christian Realism)  Rev. Kang emphasized that believers should transcend the issue of salvation for members of other faiths, because this issue often cause violent behaviors to other religions.  Rev. Kang hoped that through inter-religious dialogue, believers can be more morally and spiritually mature by learning from other religions and serve the common good, especially social justice and peace.  While preparing my presentation, I found that there is a “Christian Dialogue Academy,” which keeps alive the spirit of Rev. Kang’s ministry, and this organization leads inter-religious dialogue to seek the common good. For example, one project involved gathering leaders of various religions to discuss a way to revitalize the rural economy in South Korea.

Even though I could not search all the specific aspects of Rev. Kang’s ministry, I found one possibility to make peace in society as well as among religions. When we consider the relatively short history of Korean Protestantism (about 100 years), Rev. Kang’s leadership is very striking, and his ministry was a prophetic ministry which attempted to give alternatives to the dominant culture (according to Brueggemann’s definition). Social conflict among religions is not a problem of only South Korea.  This issue is prevalent throughout the world, and I am confident that a Korean Pastor’s peaceful and active ministry can be one example for resolving the social conflict.  Similarly, as a Korean student at Candler, I want to keep contributing to Candler’s diversity by introducing unique perspectives based on different social context from American’s.  For me, this contribution is one of best my “joys” at Candler.

-Won Chul Shin

Won Chul is a rising second year MDiv at Candler from South Korea.