Amidst the escalating crisis that has put Guam in the crossfire of a possibly nuclear-armed stand-off between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the Archdiocese of Agana is asking faithful to “look to God in these difficult times.”
The note also asks Guam’s residents to “take time to talk” to family members or co-workers who might be troubled after North Korea vowed to ignite an “enveloping fire” of test missiles near the island, which is a U.S. territory.
The statement echoes a recent message of Governor Eddie Calvo, advising citizens of the remote island to “remain calm and trust that the security of our island is in good hands.”
Guam is the closest U.S. territory to North Korea. It is also home to strategically important air force and naval bases. The island is incredibly remote: the nearest significant population is in the Federated States of Micronesia, about 570 miles away. Beyond that, Papua New Guinea is 1,400 miles away, the Philippines are 1,600 miles from its shores, and Japan 1,623 miles.
“Following the national news reports that North Korea has threatened to strike our island with missiles, the Archdiocese of Agana reminds everyone to stay grounded in the peace of Christ,” says the statement from the archdiocese, released Aug. 9.
“Look to God during these difficult times when world peace is threatened and pray always,” says the statement signed by Father Jeffrey C. San Nicolas, delegate general to the coadjutor archbishop.
He goes on to ask for prayers that the Holy Spirit will instill in the leaders of the U.S. and all nations “the virtues of wisdom and understanding to promote peace rather than war.”
The island is sovereign U.S. territory in the western Pacific Ocean, and used by America as a strategic military base. Almost a third of its land is controlled by the U.S. military and about 6,000 American troops are based there.
An estimated 85 percent of the 163,000 residents of Guam are Catholic.
The statement follows days of back-and-forth threats between Trump and Kim. Trump has threatened to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” in response to Kim’s warnings of imminent attacks on the U.S. Meanwhile, Kim has said his country was preparing to fire missiles into waters around Guam.
On Aug. 10, Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying that diplomacy and political engagement are necessary to resolve the differences between the United States and North Korea and avoid a military conflict.