Pain associated with separation from loved ones is inhumane, so is the case with Koreans. So, the National Reconciliation Committee of Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul organises World Youth Peace Pilgrimage each year to work towards peace. They invite youth from different countries to recognise conflict, confrontation, and division, and cultivate peace.

When I got the call from the Archdiocese of Bombay to represent India at the 2018 WIND OF PEACE, 3rd edition of the World Youth Peace Pilgrimage, I was excited. Eager to champion for peace, I knew this was going to be a lifetime of experience.

Off I went, with the other Indian represent, Kimberly Rowe, to South Korea’s Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) from August 16th-22nd. Along with the youth from approximately 17 countries, we visited Paju in Gyeonggi Province, Gangwon Province and Goseong County. These places throw you in the deep end; walking along the DMZ I was overwhelmed with the reality and pain of the division of the Korean peninsula.

The goal of the event was to cultivate peace workers to promote reconciliation and peace at other conflict-torn areas in the world. Also, to make the Korean peninsula, which has been divided over 70 years, a symbol of reconciliation and peace.

The unification Minister Dinner was another highlight. The events organised showcased South Korea’s splendid natural beauty:

  • Walked to Dutayeon Valley along the eco-trail in Paju
  • Visited Cheorwon Peace Observatory
  • Cycled to Korean Workers Party Headquarters
  • River Rafting on the Hantangang River

The other places we visited:

  • DMZ Ecology Peace Park & Museum
  • Cross-shaped tower
  • Haeparang trail
  • Geumgang Observatory
  • Gyeongbokgung Palace

We interacted with Catholic youth and it was interesting to hear how Catholics live in other countries. They have many small communities, missions and prayer groups just like us. It is fascinating to note that Latin American countries often host cultural and social activities. We shared about Catholicism in our respective nations. We discussed how Catholics in Pakistan, Indonesia, etc. who face church attacks stand together in tough times and are strong in their faith. In China, it is not safe to talk about missionaries and conversions.

As for us, Kimberly and I presented the Indian cultural aspects and talked about peace in India. Surprisingly, few youth listen to Bollywood.

There are several ways to experience culture and one way is with local food. No doubt, certain dishes like fish cakes and some soups had a peculiar taste, but Andong jjimdak (steamed chicken) was my favourite. I enjoyed Korean style beef, Bibimbap (mixed rice bowl), Udon (thick wheat flour noodle served with soup) and Japchae (stir-fried glass noodles) too.

Another cultural aspect I did not expect is that Koreans are so disciplined, calm and kind. One thing I was looking forward to see were Hanok (traditional Korean house). We saw a few especially in the old village in Seoul. Most were destroyed during the War.

This trip would not be possible without the connectedness of the Catholic Church. Thank you to the Archdiocese of Bombay for selecting me for this enrichening experience.

By Dialen D’souza