A South Korean grouping of churches is urging its member churches and organizations to join a campaign to give North Korean children milk and bread "without any precondition" - writes Hisashi Yukimoto.
In a recent statement, the National Council of Churches in Korea said it would start "to advocate the necessity of urgent support to people in North Korea in the situation of the present critical antagonistic political arrangement on the Korean peninsula and to mobilise its member churches".
The council explained the decision for the campaign came as the result of discussions with its North Korean counterpart, the Korean Christian Federation, held at Beijing in March. The decision to launch a campaign follows a resolution of the council's executive committee meeting on 23 April 2009.
The campaign includes a Week of National Reconciliation in June that encourages churches to have special worship services with prayers for the people of North Korea. The campaign involves sending to North Korea packs of flour weighing 20 kilograms and worth US$10 a pack and 8,000 cans of powdered milk worth $8 a can.
Tensions around the Korean Peninsula and neighbouring Japan in North Asia have heightened in recent months. North Korea on 5 April launched a long-range rocket and on 25 May engaged in a second nuclear test, an action that has led to tougher United Nations' sanctions on the isolated state.
The South Korean church council noted, "Any humanitarian assistance from South Korea has completely ceased because of the stringent relationship between the North and the South and 330,000 tons of expected assistance from the USA was stopped" due to matters related to the nuclear situation.
The statement said that due to the lack of food, children, pregnant women and the elderly, who are the most vulnerable in the society, have been the hardest hit. It noted that the undernourishment of North Korean children "will cause a problem of vicious circle, downgrading their physical growth as well as their ability to study and learning quality".
The South Korean church council groups the Presbyterian Church of Korea, the Korean Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, the Salvation Army in Korea, the Anglican Church of Korea, the Evangelical Church of Korea, the Korean Orthodox Church and the Korean Assemblies of God.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International  is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]