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David (third right) with members of the NCCK group and their guests in South Korea, June 2018
David (third right) with members of the NCCK group and their guests in South Korea, June 2018

Hope for Change

Tuesday February 26

Nuclear physicist Dr David Frame is a member of the Church’s World Mission Council. He talks to Jackie Macadam about science and faith, and hopes for peace on the Korean peninsula

“The Korean War ended on July 27, 1953 without a peace treaty being signed; an armistice was signed, and a de-militarised zone established between North and South Korea, but technically North and South Korea are still at war.”

Dr David Frame, Church of Scotland World Mission Council member and Convenor of the Asia Committee is talking about his work for the church in the precariously balanced part of the world.

“Like many of my generation, I looked in horror at wars like the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and in disbelief that the world has not learned any of the lessons of the past.”

David (right) has more than a passing interest in the scientific aspects of the demilitarised Korean peninsula. He has a degree in mathematics and natural philosophy from Glasgow University and completed a PhD in high energy physics – though he usually just calls himself a nuclear physicist!

David comes from Barrhead originally, but his professional life has taken him all round the world – including to the world famous CERN project under the mountains of Switzerland and France.

“I have been interested in science as long as I can remember, mainly in the physical sciences. But I am particularly interested in fundamental particle physics and astrophysics, in summary what the universe is made up of.

“After completing my BSc, I decided that I wanted to do a PhD. I had been a summer student in CERN for a couple of summers so I knew a little about the subject and decided to do that. There was a major new experiment being started in CERN by the University of Glasgow together with some other labs, so before I knew it I was out in CERN helping to build, then run and eventually to analyse the results.

“I met my wife-to-be, Gill, in Geneva, where we both went to the Church of Scotland. After finishing my PhD, it was natural to actually get a job working for CERN, where I helped build an experiment looking for the particle which many years later became known as the God particle – it was only many years later that the God particle was realised to be so important, but we didn’t find anything at that time!”

His interest in science has, for David, never been a barrier to his belief in God. “You might have thought that working in an area like fundamental particle physics would have been a challenge to my faith, but it’s not, in fact, it is quite the opposite – the beauty of the detail of how the universe around us is constructed, whether at the smallest scale of subatomic particles or the largest scale of galaxies, speaks volumes against it just being a chance creation.

“Scientific research and faith and religion are not in conflict with each other, but are complementary – science tells us about the what and the how, whereas faith and religion tell us about the why.

“I have been an active church member as long as I can remember, starting in Barrhead, then later in Geneva when I lived there, then in Killermont Church in Bearsden when my wife and I returned to the UK, and now Pitlochry, where I am an elder and convenor of our church’s World Mission Group.”

David’s interest in World Mission was sparked while living in Geneva, and has led to him joining the World Mission Council and now convening the Asia Committee – whose remit includes the church’s engagement with peace efforts on the Korean Peninsula.

“The Church has long supported the National Council of Churches in Korea’s (NCCK) Peace and Reunification Programme,” says David. “This programme seeks to raise awareness round the world of the situation in the Korean Peninsula, to apply pressure on governments to get sanctions lifted on North Korea and to bring about the signing of a formal peace treaty ending the war.

“Last year the NCCK decided to link the Peace and Re-unification Programme with a conference in Japan, held in Hiroshima, which seeks to apply pressure on the Japanese Government not to change its position of pacifism.

“Andrew MacPherson, the former Youth Moderator, and myself were honoured to represent the Church of Scotland this year at the NCCK Peace and Re-unification Programme, and present a paper at the conference.

“A smaller group of us moved on to South Korea where we attended a workshop which reviewed the historical context for the Peace and Reunification Movement of the NCCK and looked at the historical significance of the Panmunjom Declaration signed by Kim Jong Un, Premier of North Korea, and Moon Jae-in, President of South Korea on April 27, 2018.

“In order to understand the attitude of the people within South Korea towards peace and reunification we visited a number of sites close to the Demilitarised Zone where it was possible to see North Korea.

“In South Korea I was struck with just how close many people live to the threat of war in their daily lives, with miles of barbed wire and watch towers alongside busy six lane motorways north of Seoul. I was also struck with the strength of feeling in the people themselves that they were going to solve the problem of the two Koreas and bring about reconciliation and eventual reunification.”

But it wasn’t all work.

“On the Sunday morning in Korea, we visited Shinsam Church (Korean Methodist Church), out in the middle of the fields, where the pastor invited us to attend, and take part in, the Sunday morning service.

“Interestingly, though there is great negativity towards President Trump in the UK, the National Council of Churches in Korea feel that the recent meeting between President Trump and Premier Kim could be the start of a process towards peace, and must not be allowed to fail. Sanctions by the international community on North Korea harm only the people of that country, and should be gradually eased.” David says.

“We should encourage the Church of Scotland to apply pressure on the Scottish and UK Governments for the lifting of sanctions on North Korea.

“Local congregations in Scotland should become more aware of the plight of citizens within North Korea and to provide tangible support for them.

“There is hope for a change in the Koreas, and as a Church and as a community, we should support and encourage that hope.”