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News > Shells Into Bells

Shells Into Bells
by Rev. Marcus Braybrooke

The invitation from South Korea to the inauguration of the Peace Bell Park had an unusual P.S. "Please bring with you a spent shell or used cartridges to be melted down to make the Peace Bell."

Where to get them? It might be dangerous to wander across an army range looking for them. A friend who knew about these things kindly obtained five used cartridges from the Police, with an accompanying letter that I was in lawful possession of these cartridges. But what about airport security? The metal would set off an alarm and the traces of gunpowder would excite sniffer dogs. The security officer of Korean Airlines, whom I telephoned in advance, was reassuring: but officials at check-in were more anxious. After consulting several rungs up the ladder of responsibility, Airport police were contacted. After an hour's wait, their answer was to pack these five small empty cartridges with our luggage for the hold. But when we arrived at Seoul and headed to Baggage Reclaim, the suitcase was alarmed and we were escorted away for questioning - but now language differences added to the difficulties. Once again security officers, in ascending order of authority, appeared. Eventually, when Mary produced a little bell from the Holy Land, which we had also been asked to bring, and rang it, all became clear and frowns changed into smiles.

The difficulties of turning shells into bells made me more aware how hard it is 'to beat swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks' [Isaiah, 2, 4] and even harder to make peace even when armed conflict has been halted. More than fifty years after the armistice, South and North Korea are technically still at war, although both heads of state have recently met. In the county of Hwacheon, which adjoins the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), there are more soldiers stationed there than the total civilian population. The DMZ still divides families. Our guide had only once in fifty years met his brother, who lives in the North. There are constant reminders of the two million people who were killed during the Korean War -- the bodies of thousands of Chinese soldiers were thrown into one deep lake, which we passed. The soil is still infested with landmines, which have a life of more than a hundred years. The bitter memories of the war and the earlier Japanese occupation are just as hard to remove.

But this is where people of faith can make a contribution -- helping to clear the landmines in the minds. They offer a path to pardon and inner peace, they call for forgiveness of those who have injured us, and they give us hope that lasting peace is possible. This is why the Mayor of Hwacheon invited members of the Peace Council, an international and interfaith group of people committed to work through non-violence for lasting peace, to be present at the inauguration of the Peace Bell Park.

The Peace Bell Park is a symbol of hope. The bell, which is to be cast next year, will not be rung until Korea is reunified. It will join with the bells of Bethlehem and with bells across the world in calling people to enjoy and share God's precious gift of peace. May they

Ring out the thousand wars of old,

Ring in the thousand years of peace...

Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be.

(The photo at the top of this page shows Rev. Braybrooke presenting the shells to the Mayor of Hwacheon. Peace Councilors Mairead Maguire and Dhammananda Bhikkhuni are on the right. Below, Peace Councilors and other participants at the groundbreaking ceremony for the World Peace Bell Park, 30 October 2007.) See the report of the 2007 Meeting in Korea.

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Page Published: 04/21/2008 - Page Last Modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - Copyright 2008 International Committee for the Peace Council

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