Ecumenical leaders visit North Korea
(UMNS) - A seven-member U.S. ecumenical delegation is calling for action
regarding the political and humanitarian crisis on the Korean
Led by the Rev. Robert Edgar, chief executive of the
National Council of Churches, and the Rev. John McCullough, executive
director of Church World Service, the delegation visited North Korea
Nov. 11-15 as the culmination of a yearlong initiative by the two
organizations. Both Edgar and McCullough are United Methodist pastors.
Korean Christian Federation, a longstanding ecumenical partner based in
the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, hosted the delegation. After the
visit, the U.S. representatives attended a specially convened National
Council of Churches in Korea Assembly and an interfaith peace
conference, both in Seoul, South Korea.
In response to a U.S.
State Department invitation, delegation members will discuss their trip
with Assistant Secretary James Kelley on Nov. 26.
In a statement
following the North Korea visit, the delegation called upon member
denominations to encourage their congregations to advocate, particularly
with Congress and the Bush administration, for the peaceful
reunification of Korea. It also asked the ecumenical community to
continue to nurture ties with the Christian community on the Korean
peninsula. All Koreans should be involved in these issues too, the
Delegation members said the six-party talks
should not only focus on the nuclear issue but also on developing ways
to achieve lasting peace between North and South Korea. The two
countries have been in a state of war for half a century, despite an
armistice that ended combat action in 1953.
"Given that a
comprehensive and lasting peace requires international cooperation, we
encourage the international community, particularly those countries in
the region, to participate as actively as
delegation statement said. "It is our conviction that diplomacy and
negotiations remain the best approach for finding durable solutions."
delegation called for a clear U.S. statement favoring a peaceful
resolution to the tensions on the peninsula. The ecumenical leaders
urged the Bush administration to pledge not to launch a pre-emptive
attack on North Korea, to conclude a non-aggression pact and to move
"In this regard, ending the
armistice and replacing it with a peace treaty will help promote a
political climate conducive to lasting peace on the peninsula," the
The ecumenical leaders said they hope the
international community will respond generously to the 2004 U.N. appeal
for $200 million for North Korea humanitarian assistance. In particular,
they urged the Bush administration to "continue the American tradition
of generosity and compassion" in regard to the U.N. North Korea Appeal
by raising its contribution substantially over the 2003 level.
the delegation was in North Korea, one of its goals was to monitor the
distribution of 420 metric tons (132,000 pounds) of refined wheat flour
donated by Church World Service. The ecumenical leaders also toured the
Korean Christian Federation's Bongsu Noodle Factory and Bakery, which
processes one metric ton of flour daily.
The shipment, which cost
nearly $100,000 to deliver, filled seven railway wagons, each carrying
2,400 55-pound bags of flour - enough for some 132,000 loaves of bread.
Since the outbreak of the food crisis in 1996, Church World Service has
provided nearly $4.5 million in food aid to North Korea.
activities included a stop at the Demilitarized Zone at Panmumjom, which
separates an estimated 10 million family members on the Korean
peninsula; a meeting with Vice Chairman Kim Young Dae of the Supreme
People's Assembly, the third-ranking person in the North Korean
government; and visits to the Protestant Chigul Church of Pyongyang and a
North Korean house church in Pyongyang's Nangnang district.
# # #
The National Council of Churches provided information for this story.
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