Monday, October 24, 2016

Lessons Learned From Jeju-do Island

The island of Jeju-do, the biggest of the islands surrounding Korea, has a history of valuing harmony and a win-win philosophy of life. When a neighbor has a special event at their home the villagers will send a special dish of food for the occasion. There is no distinction between young and old, men and women, those who have and those who don't all treated the same.

A priest of the Jeju-do diocese writes in the Catholic Times of the way the community of faith is joining together with the local communities.

Taking a walk along one of the old footpaths on the island you will see stone walls that appear to be built without much thought but they can withstand the heaviest of winds  and remain strong as ever. The walls are made of large and small stones, each placed in their respective places so that they withstand the worst of the weather conditions: a sign of mutual help necessary also in the human community.

Haenyeo is the word used for the women divers of the island. They worked to overcome poverty going into the cold sea with determination and independently working together where the young help the older and weaker and share their earnings.

Stumps are the starting place for the leaps the island has made over the years. From 1629 to 1825  the citizens were forbidden to leave the island. No one was allowed to visit and became a place of exile.

During a bad harvest year, people were dying of hunger and a woman, Kim Man Deok, sold all her possessions to help the citizens and others joined in to help. She is greatly revered even today.

Shortly after the end of the  Second World War Jeju-do had the most tragic incident in its  modern history, called the April 3th Uprising. The left and right  factions began fighting in Jeju-do after the end of the war. Most of the families had members killed during the uprising. The suppression of the rebellion by the South Korean Army was brutal and a reason for many deaths. It was a crime against humanity, a genocide.

Many decades were required to overcome the sighs and tears associated with the uprising. However, all was revealed and with the  return of democracy, in 2003, Oct 31 the president of Korea formally apologized to the citizens of Jeju-do for the  brutality of the Korean forces in suppressing the rebellion.  
Grandchildren will remember the lesson from the uprising.

Recently we have in Jeju-do development that has been unconcerned with the environment. In the Church, we have been influenced by worldliness and have succumbed to its influence but there is a desire  in the small Church community movement to join the other larger social communities in fellowship and sharing.

There is the desire to overcome the areas that are contrary to God's will. No matter the difficulties there is the desire for fellowship and unity, sharing and concern, and to build community and to overcome the temptations to worldliness. The writer hopes this will be the way the whole community of  faith continues to go using our hearts and wisdom.