South Korean Buddhists marked the 70th anniversary of their country's independence from Japan with a massive outdoor demonstration for peace.
About 300,000 Buddhists chanted in unison in central Seoul on Saturday, hoping that their meditations and prayers would encourage reunification with their brothers and sisters in North Korea, CNN reported.
The event was embedded into a larger cultural celebration of Buddha's birthday. The meditation was hosted by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the largest Buddhist sect in the country, and brought together about 400 Buddhist leaders from around the world, Korean news outlet Yonhap reports.
About 23 percent of South Koreans self-identify as Buddhists, according to the Pew Research Center. But the situation is very different to the north. Freedom of religion is guaranteed in North Korea's constitution, but the state controls places of worship and openly religious activity isn't allowed, Reuters reports.
Supreme Patriarch Jinje, the leader of the Jogye Order, said that although North Koreans may not be able to openly express their religion, there are "500 years of Buddhism rooted in every person's heart."
"The separation has been causing pain for the people," he told CNN. "The purpose of this meditation is to bring peace to all the people -- people of the whole world."
The Very Rev. Dr. James A. Kowalski, dean at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, attended the meditation assembly and spoke at the corresponding conference. He told The Huffington Post that he admired Jinje's courage and dedication to finding a spiritual solution to heal his divided country.
"Sometimes it takes more courage to do something when you have no guarantee that you’ll be successful," Kowalski said. "But religions were intended to enhance the building of community and bring together people who have different ideas."