Fr. Peter Duck Hee NamDirector of The Peace & Unity Center The forsythia, azalea, magnolia, and cherry blossoms have withered. Now wildflowers and moss phlox spring into full bloom. This is the scene we enjoy from late March into early April here in Paju, one of the coldest locations in South Korea. Spring, whose coming seemed unlikely, appeared suddenly, like resurrection from the dead. I reflect upon the past three years as a time of darkness—even chaos—as though I had been passing through a long, dark tunnel. My memory takes me back to March 27, 2020, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Quarantines, restrictions, and lockdowns were the buzz of all the media, on every side. While our world was gripped with a collective fear of the dark, a man, robed in white and with a slight limp, walked into St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. On the eve of Holy Week, Pope Francis climbed that altar to offer a message and a blessing to all of us caught up in the darkness. This scene is still etched vividly in my mind, for that was the moment I realized a spark of hope cannot be quenched, no matter how thick the darkness. Photo 1) Pope Francis facing the altar in Peter's Square in the Vatican, Rome Ⓒ Vatican Media Channel The Pope has been offering us messages of hope ever since: “[I am filled] with hope that we might come out of this crisis better.” “Here I see a spark of hope. Change that begins with people's specific needs—change that establishes human dignity and freedom as our foundation—we need this fundamental change.”In some languages, the word “crisis” is a combination of the words “risk” and “opportunity.” The Covid-19 pandemic offered us options, both of risk and opportunity. Our future need not be bleak if we view life as a risk that serves as the opportunity to recognize new hope and strengthen our precious values. Speaking for myself, there was an incident during this time that triggered a conversion(?) in me. When the Ukrainian war erupted on February 24, 2022, the world’s peace was shattered yet again. On top of the corona pandemic, we faced another global disaster. As if time was turning backwards, my mind was possessed with negative visions of another world war. I felt as if all our efforts on the Korean Peninsula to pray for peace had been in vain. Despite everyone knowing that the advent of war means destruction for all, we again found ourselves caught up in war. The war in Ukraine reignited my longing for peace. Every New Year since 1968, the Pope has delivered a “World Day of Peace” message as an Apostolic blessing to the faithful around the globe. In his inaugural message for the World Day of Peace, Pope Paul VI said that this day will remind us of “the necessity of defending Peace in the face of dangers which always threaten it: the danger of the survival of selfishness in the relations among nations; the danger of violence into which some populations can allow themselves to be drawn by desperation at not having their right to life and human dignity recognized and respected.” “The world must be educated to love Peace, to build it up and defend it.” “Peace is not pacifism; it does not mask a base and slothful concept of life, but it proclaims the highest and most universal values of life: truth, justice, freedom, love.” In a time when it seemed that our peace was completely destroyed by war, I rediscovered the reason we must proclaim peace. Peace is life’s most noble and universal value. These crises served as an opportunity, reminding me once again that proclaiming peace means declaring truth, doing justice, asserting freedom, and exalting love. From now on, I am committed to proclaiming the message of peace every day. I would like to speak now about peace spirituality. Spirituality cannot exist within something lifeless or unmoving. Spirituality cannot be contained by war and death. Peace spirituality is alive and gives us a reason for living. Because we are alive, we cannot turn away from peace. Proclaiming peace is not meaningless in face of war, rather, the desperation of our world gives us reason to escalate our proclamation. Ironically, the fear and nearness of death in the Covid-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine made me dream of peace. Where we pray for peace today, we take our first steps on the peace journey. Shortly after being assigned to serve the Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People, I visited Tongilchon—“unification village”—within the civilian control area of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). This area is restricted to civilian access and is also the location where inter-Korean exchanges once happened and have since been cut off. From that place, I saw the North and South Korean flags fluttering together in the distance. I remembered the past and reflected on our current reality, where south and north relations have all but stopped. I committed—there and then—to not lose hope for peace. Hope is the only thing that can turn this around. In the worst cases, when it seems there is nothing more we can do, it is time to get back to the basics. It is time to cry out for peace and walk the peace journey together! It seems we have to start over again. Photo 2) The South Korean flag flying 800 meters from the North Korean flag … Ⓒ Hankyoreh Although inter-Korean relations seem as unyielding as frozen winter soil, I promise to live each day with a prayerful heart and in hope that the spring of peace will once again bloom on the Korean Peninsula. I hope that our hearts will also return to the vision of peace that Pope Paul VI proclaimed. “Peace must be willed. Peace must be loved. Peace must be produced. It must be a moral consequence; it must spring up from free and generous spirits. A dream it may well seem; but a dream which becomes a reality by virtue of a new and superior human concept.”Let us dream of peace and hold onto hope.