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Leaders collage

Peacemakers Across the Globe

By Grace Lee img June 23, 2013 img Categories: Cultural, Featured

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As a second generation Asian American, we had the privileges of growing up in a well-developed nation. I find in today’s success driven society, the vast majority is mainly focused on work-life balance, independence and pursuit of happiness. Our daily concerns are expressed in terminology known as “First World Problems” such as: Having no internet, bad parking, being too full from eating too much, and the inevitable struggle between choosing an Android vs. iOs device. Living in such a sheltered environment, many people fail to recognize the “Real World Problems”. Society has forgotten that much of who we are today has been shaped by events and by our predecessors in history. It is essential to know foundational truths from the past in order to create a solid legacy for the future. I recommend two excellent films to help gain perspective: Memory of Forgotten War and La Source.

2013 marks the 60th year since the signing of the armistice agreement of the Korean War. However, because no peace treaty was signed, the conflict has not officially ended. The costs of military conflict through personal accounts, experiences and memories shared by survivors of the Korean War are deeply conveyed in the movie, Memory of Forgotten War, recently screened at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival 2013. To learn more about the film, please visit
A father leaves home early, before sunrise, to go to the city and promises to come back before supper time with medicine for his sick child. While casually waiting for her husband to come home, his wife and two young children are forced out of their home by soldiers as they hear a sudden break of loud bombing and gun shooting.  As for whereabouts of the father, dead or alive, only heaven knows.

A teenage boy walks out of his home to find his father but is informed his father had already returned home to Kaesung, up north. He could not get back to his hometown because the armistice negotiation had begun. No one was allowed in and no one was allowed to leave the 38th parallel. The boy is haunted by the sound of loud bombing noises, ears bleeding, and dead bodies on the streets, as he cries in the darkness every night for three long months in loneliness and fear. Imagine how painful it must be to suddenly be separated from your family in a matter of a few hours and never allowed to see them again. Such memoirs may seem like just a story to us. We can only imagine that it must have happened ages ago, but in fact, it occurred in the 1950s. Those who struggled since the Korean War and were forcefully separated from their families lived through tremendous economic changes and they are still living amongst all of us.

Reverend Syngman Rhee is an exemplary person, a leader that has committed decades of his life for peace and reconciliation and shaping the future for the progress of humankind.  He was painfully separated from his family in North Korea as he came to South Korea during the Korean War. He came to the United States to study in 1956 and became strongly involved in the Civil Rights Movements in the early 1960s. He was deeply resonated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message towards the African American community to forgive the oppressors in an effort to create a new society for all, based on peace and justice. Many were dumbstruck by the sudden appearance of a “yellow skinned” man who was passionately shouting for freedom and equal rights amongst the African Americans. To him, this was not just a battle between blacks and whites. He deeply cherished “Liberty and justice for all” and his ideal was to spread a message of love and freedom for all humankind.

During his term as president of National Council of Churches of USA, Rev. Rhee held several meetings with former president Bill Clinton to share common concerns of national and global issues. He has been testifying his philosophy for non-violence for the past 50 years. “Christianity was not created to fight against something. It is life-giving and can be a catalyst to create a new history in any kind of society, capitalist or communist “says Rev. Syngman Rhee. To this day, he lives on to fulfill his godly values and philosophy to build bridges toward the common good where “international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict.”

The movie La Source conveys the inspiring take on how one person can really make a radical difference. Josue is a Haitian janitor at Princeton University where he works 20 hours a day to send money home to Haiti. But empowered by vision, he returns to his country after the devastating earthquake in 2010 to build a water pipeline that is essential to their village’s survival because clean water means life. In Haiti, the main cause for death and diseases, such as cholera, is due to contaminated water. Such dreams cannot be accomplished on his own, but with a few supporters, Princeton students and Generosity Water, inspired by Josue’s story, partnered up and raised $20,000 for the water project in La Source. The new water system in La Source currently serves 5,000 people including those from neighboring communities. This guarantees life and a future for the people of Haiti. Josue received the Journey Award, given to those whose work for the common good exemplifies the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in their personal and professional lives. He has chosen to make the problems of others, his problem.  This story truly conveys the power of what one committed man can do.

The history of mankind and the success stories of those who chose to live their lives for fulfillment of others are living examples that prove greatest achievements are made not just strength alone but by things that never cease to exist such as faith, hope and love that empowers people to be great.  It is difficult for us to relate to the pain of war, separation of family and day to day struggle for survival, but it is evident that our society needs courageous peacemakers that will take a stand to make a positive difference.  We can all contribute towards a better world. Even the smallest act of kindness and love can change someone else’s life. Together we can help prevent wars, poverty, hunger, easily preventable diseases and illnesses. Truth is, these problems will never completely vanish but remember, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

Film Sources:

Memory of Forgotten War:

La Source


Other Resources:

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