World Methodist Leaders Urge Prayers for North Korea

As tensions linger over North Korea’s recent nuclear tests, the World Methodist Council has urged Methodists around the world to pray for the situation in the reclusive communist country.

British Methodist minister the Rev Dr John Barrett, chair of the World Methodist Council, and the Rev Dr George Freeman, the council’s general secretary, said in a statement: “As officers of the World Methodist Council … we urge all Methodist people to pray for our sisters and brothers in South Korea at this difficult time.”

They said Methodist leaders, which met in South Korea in July this year, “experienced there at first hand the prayers and humanitarian concern of South Korean Christians for inhabitants of North Korea, many of whom are suffering from poverty and hunger.”

“[We experienced] the concern of South Koreans for family relatives in the North from whom they are separated; the deep longings of South Koreans for reunification of the Korean peninsular and the mounting concern for peace and political stability in the region and [are] aware that this concern has greatly increased following the recent claim by North Korea to have tested a nuclear weapon,” the World Methodist leaders added.

North Korea was met with international scorn when it conducted nuclear tests earlier this month, prompting the United Nations to impose sanctions on the country where millions of its citizens have faced numerous severe food shortages already over the years.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il reportedly coupled a statement of regret over the country's nuclear test with the announcement that Pyongyang would return to international nuclear talks if Washington backs off a campaign to financially isolate the country.

"If the U.S. makes a concession to some degree, we will also make a concession to some degree, whether it be bilateral talks or six-party talks," Kim reportedly told a Chinese envoy, according to a diplomatic source in China cited by the Chosun Ilbo.

Now the U.S. has secured assurance from Russia that it will play its part in implementing the sanctions as the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrapped up a tour to push for full implementation of the U.N. penalties.

Rice, however, remained skeptical over reports that Kim Jong Il had apologized for the nuclear bomb test on Oct. 9, saying that she had not heard anything of the kind in her discussions in Beijing with Tang Jiaxuan, China's special envoy on North Korea, who on Thursday became the first foreign official to meet Kim face to face since the test.