World Methodists Urged to Pray for North Korea

Methodists around the world have been urged to unite in prayer for the difficult situation in North Korea where millions of people continue to suffer from hunger and poverty.

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.

Chair of the World Methodist Council, British Methodist minister the Rev Dr John Barrett, and general secretary, the Rev Dr George Freeman, said in a statement: "As officers of the World Methodist Council, which met in South Korea in July this year, and who 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; 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 aware that this concern has greatly increased following the recent claim by North Korea to have tested a nuclear weapon, we urge all Methodist people to pray for our sisters and brothers in South Korea at this difficult time."

North Korea met with international scorn when it conducted nuclear tests earlier in the month, prompting the UN 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 US 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 was quoted as telling a Chinese envoy, the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo reported, citing a diplomatic source in China.

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

Rice, however, remained sceptical over reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il had apologised for the nuclear bomb test on 9 October, 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.

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