Korean Peninsula -- After monitoring the distribution of 420 metric tons of wheat to North Korea, the seven-member ecumenical delegation for the National Council of Churches reported hopeful results of their Nov. 12-14 visit to Pyong Yang.
The delegation, led by Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary of the NCC, and the Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director of the Church World Service, will spend the rest of this week in Seoul, under the patronage of their ecumenical partner, the Korean Christians Federation.
The primary reason for the group’s visit was to distribute the 132,000 pounds of refined wheat flour donated by the CWS to the impoverished nation. The shipment, valued at close to $4.5 million, cost nearly $100,000 to deliver and filled seven railway wagons.
In addition, Rick Corsino, the World Food Program Country Director, and Umberto Greco of the WFP's NGO Office briefed the delegation on the food shortage and the general humanitarian situation. Both officials expressed deep concern about the decline in the quantity of international assistance, with Corsino encouraging the global community to respond generously to the United Nations $200 million Consolidated Appeal that was announced November 15, 2000.
Following their return, the delegation issued a joint statement calling for six responses by Americans, Koreans and the international community to the burgeoning political and humanitarian crisis on the Korean peninsula.
The delegation also had an opportunity to meet with Vice Chairman Kim Young Dae of the Supreme People's Assembly, the third-ranking person in the North Korean government. The group exchanged views on U.S.-North Korean relations, the prospects for the Six-Party Talks on the nuclear issue, improvements in Inter-Korean relations and the continuing and deepening humanitarian crisis.
The highlight of the trip, however, was the visit to the Protestant Chigul Church of Pyongyang and a North Korean house church located on Tong-Il Road in Pyongyang's Nangnang district. The KCF had arranged these two weekday encounters at the request of the delegation. Even as challenges continue, the delegation was "filled with thanksgiving" as the members prayed and sang hymns together with their Korean brothers and sisters. They shared words of encouragement and comfort to each other and pledged their common commitment to peace and the reunification of Korea.
The delegation will continue attending meetings this week with South Korean President Roh Moon-Hyeon and the Minister of Reunification as well as with the National Council of Churches in Korea.
In addition to Dr. Edgar and the Rev. McCullough, delegation members included Brian Grieves, Officer for Peace and Justice Ministries of The Episcopal Church, New York City; Mervin Keeney, Executive Director Global Mission Partnerships, Church of the Brethren, Elgin, Ill.; Victor Hsu, Senior Advisor to the Church World Service Executive Director, 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, Global Ministries, United Church of Christ/Wider Church Ministries Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)/Division of Overseas Ministries/ Cleveland, Ohio.
The National Council of Churches USA is an ecumenical gathering of 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican denominations. There are nearly 50 million adherents in 140,000 local member congregations throughout the U.S.