More than 25 international religious leaders are expected to attend the Interfaith Peace Conference in South Korea, Nov. 17-18. The conference, entitled, "From Ceasefire to Peace: Peace Making Role of World Religions,” marks the culmination of a three-part ecumenical initiative to resolve the burgeoning political and humanitarian crisis in North Korea.
“The most urgent task at this point is to eliminate the possibility of a war on the Korean peninsula," states the invitation by the Korea Peace Forum.
Delegates from the National Council of Churches USA and the Church World Service will attend the conference as part of their weeklong visit to the Korean Peninsula. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA (NCC), and the Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director of the global humanitarian agency Church World Service (CWS), will lead the delegation.
Central to the group’s agenda is their Nov. 11-15 visit to Pyongyang, where they will be monitoring of the distribution of 420 metric tons of refined wheat flour, donated by CWS. The charity is part of the its ongoing North Korea Appeal, and assessment of future humanitarian needs through site visits and talks with the international aid community in North Korea.
The flour is to be distributed among baby homes, children’s centers and maternity hospitals. It will bring to $4,349,989 the total of food aid provided by CWS to North Korea since the outbreak of the food crisis in 1996.
The $100,000 in shipping costs was raised from NCC/CWS member denominations, including a special $50,000 contribution from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Following their stay in Pyongyang, the delegates will attend a specially convened National Council of Churches Korea assembly, Nov. 15-16. The Rev. McCullough will present a report on the delegation’s visit to the North. Dr. Edgar is slated to give the keynote speech during the Interfaith Conference the following day.
The delegation also requested meetings with top government officials as part of its program in both the North and the South.
In addition to Dr. Edgar, and the Rev. McCullough, delegation members include Brian Grieves, Officer for Peace and Justice Ministries of The Episcopal Church, New York City; Mervin Keeney, Director Global Mission Partnerships, Church of the Brethren, Elgin, Ill.; Victor Hsu, Senior Advisor to the Church World Service Executive Director, New York City; Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times, New York City; Sara Lisherness, Coordinator, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, Ky., and Zhu Xiaoling, Area Executive for East Asia and the Pacific, United Church of Christ/Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Cleveland, Ohio.
The National Council of Churches USA is the nation’s leading ecumenical agency, comprising 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican member churches - which, in turn, count 50 million adherents in 140,000 local congregations.
Church World Service is a cooperative humanitarian ministry of the NCC’s member denominations, providing sustainable self-help and development, disaster relief and refugee assistance in more than 80 countries.