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Best Wishes for Korea Peace Conference

Friday 9th November 2007

The Archbishop of Canterbury has held discussions with the Rt Revd Dr Robin Eames, former Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, about the forthcoming Worldwide Anglican Peace Conference in Korea, known as TOPIK.

They also discussed concerns about the humanitarian situation in North Korea, particularly following floods there earlier this year, and issues of religious freedom that might affect the role the church could play in promoting peace and reconciliation.

Lord Eames will serve as Dr Williams' Special Envoy and as President of the Conference in which about 150 delegates from around the Communion will participate. The conference was originally scheduled to take place last year but tension arising from missile and nuclear tests necessitated a postponement.

Now, though, Dr Williams said, they were both clear that, despite some volatility in the region, political developments this year meant progress.

"We are heartened by the movement made in meetings between the leaders of the North and South towards a permanent peace and the progress achieved through the Six-Party talks".

Dr Williams added that Lord Eames' own experience would add greatly to the initiative:

"His international reputation in the field of reconciliation and his wide experience and dedicated service to our Anglican Communion fit him well for the role of President of the Peace Conference".

Lord Eames said that he was delighted to take the role:

"I consider it a great privilege to have been asked to represent the Archbishop of Canterbury on an occasion when the strength of the Anglican Communion is once more seen in the sharing of one another's burdens and opportunities."

The driving force behind TOPIK (Towards Peace in Korea) has been The Most Revd Francis Park, Primate of the Anglican Church of Korea (ACK). The conference is to be divided into three parts, each chaired by the Primate of one of the churches who have cooperated in preparing the Conference. The first element, chaired by the Most Revd Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the USA's Episcopal Church, is a Peace Visit to North Korea - crossing through the demilitarised zone, the world's most heavily fortified border. During the visit the Anglican delegation plans to deliver some humanitarian aid to a North Korean village. The aid, including medicines and agricultural tools, is the result of a successful "Special Collection" organised across the Anglican Communion by ACK.

The visit to North Korea aims to give direct experience of the Korean situation as preparation for the subsequent Peace Forum in Paju (South Korea) which will be chaired by the Most Rev. Nathaniel M. Uematsu, Primate of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Japanese Anglican Church). In the forum experiences of fighting for reconciliation, forgiveness and healing from around the world will be shared and discussed through addresses given by a range of distinguished speakers.

Dr Williams said that the Conference's work of "supporting and resourcing the painstaking work of building and sustaining peace and promoting reconciliation" would give a practical demonstration of the Anglican commitment to Korean reunification declared by the Anglican Consultative Council and Lambeth Conference.

The third element of the Conference, the opening ceremonies and worship service, is to be chaired by Archbishop Park.

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