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NCC, CWS Executives to Lead Delegation to North, South Korea;
Group's Agenda: Humanitarian Aid, Search for Peace with Justice

October 21, 2003, NEW YORK CITY -- Delivery of humanitarian aid to North Korea and participation in an international Interfaith Peace Conference in South Korea top the agenda of a U.S. ecumenical delegation visit to the Korean peninsula this November.

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.

Hosting the delegation will be two long-standing NCC/CWS ecumenical partners: the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK), based in Seoul, and the Korean Christians Federation (KCF), based in Pyongyang.

The visit marks the culmination of a three-part initiative that began with an April 11, 2003, meeting, held in Chicago, of representatives of member denominations to address the burgeoning political and humanitarian crisis on the Korean peninsula.

They outlined a strategy that led to a June 16-18 consultation in Washington, D.C., at which North American and South Korean church leaders joined humanitarian and Korea experts in calling for the U.S. government to promote a peaceful solution to the crisis. (The SARS epidemic prevented a church delegation from North Korea from participating.)

Consultation participants called on the United States to renounce its pre-emptive strike policy, expressed concern about North Korea’s nuclear program, urged resumption of peace talks and issued a plea for humanitarian aid for North Korea. U.S. and South Korean ecumenical leaders followed up on June 19 with talks with high officials at the U.S. Department of State and the National Security Council.

Central to the group’s agenda Nov. 11-15 in Pyongyang will be monitoring of the distribution of 420 metric tons (924,000 pounds) of refined wheat flour, donated by CWS as part of 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 nearly $100,000 ($99,960) to cover costs of the shipment was raised from NCC/CWS member denominations, including a special $50,000 contribution from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

The shipment fills seven railway wagons -- enough flour for some 924,000 loaves of bread. 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.

In South Korea Nov. 15-19, the delegation’s agenda includes a specially convened NCCK Assembly, which will hear a report about the delegation’s visit to the North from the Rev. McCullough, and an international Interfaith Peace Conference, at which Dr. Edgar is slated to give the keynote speech.

"The most urgent task at this point is to eliminate the possibility of a war on the Korean peninsula," states the invitation to the Nov. 17-18 conference, being hosted by the Korea Peace Forum. More than 20 religious leaders from outside Korea are expected to take part in this discussion of the role of religious leaders for peace on the Korean peninsula under the theme "From Ceasefire to Peace: Peace Making Role of World Religions."

The delegation also has 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; 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.

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