North Korea remains the most difficult country to be a Christian in the world.
In a country that, understanding what is going on in North Korea is difficult to say the very least.
So often the images we see on our television screens can verge on the comical as Kim Jong-un cultivates a personality, looking to those around him to idolise him and his predecessors.
But in one disturbing area we know as much as we need to, information that is anything but comical.
Difficult though the information is to collect, there are an estimated 400,000 Christians in the secret state seeking to be the light of God’s love in the darkness that continues to engulf North Korea.
With a regime that feels threatened by groups of people meeting together to pray, the news that 33 people in the country face execution for being associated with missionaries and seeking to establish so called ‘underground’ churches that Jong-Un believes are conspiring against him, is sadly predictable news; but news nevertheless that acts as a reminder of the secret state’s horrendous record on religious freedom.
According to Open Door’s World Watch List, North Korea remains, for the eleventh year in a row, the most difficult country to be a Christian in the world. Classed as hostile entities, Christians face multiple threats of arrest, detention, torture and in some cases public execution. As Open Doors continues:
“There is a vigorous elimination programme in existence to convert, imprison, banish or execute individuals who have converted to Christianity: Koreans who have converted after defecting to China and are later repatriated are in particular danger. Spies have reportedly been sent to China to expose networks; Christians helping defectors there have been killed. Christians are likely to remain targets of this regime.”
In a recent event in the British Parliament, one Christian who has escaped the grips of the communist regime gave a heart-wrenching account of her imprisonment because of her faith. She said of the labour camp that she was sent to:
“The walls of our barracks were bloodstained, because we killed as many fleas and lice as we could. We received only a few spoons of rotten corn meal each. The soup we ate was usually just dirty water. If we were thirsty and wanted extra water, we needed to steal it from the nearby stream, which was polluted by the garbage of the guards.”
Talking about the dead bodies which so often were stacked outside the crematorium, she continued:
“Sometimes, they rotted for days in sheds before they were disposed or burnt. The ashes whirled over the road we walked every day. Each time my feet crunched, I thought: ‘One day the other prisoners will walk over me.'”
“Nobody spoke about their faith in the camp,” she said. “Besides, I was lucky enough to be sent to a re-education camp, and I was eventually released. Most Christians are put in so-called total-control zones. Political labour camps. Nobody is ever released from there.”
Last year, an article for International Christian Concern asked what was missing from US policy towards North Korea. Its answer – the relative low profile of efforts to promote religious freedom at the expensive of a much higher profile effort to deter North Korea from its nuclear ambitious. It’s an accusation that can be levied at much of the West’s efforts in North Korea.
It is time that we in the West, blessed by the freedom we have, spoke more and spoke loudly about the plight of those in North Korea and elsewhere facing death simply for their faith. As Fiona Bruce MP has recently concluded:
“We cannot stay silent. North Korea is in breach of every single declaration of the 1948 human rights bill.”
The tragic irony is that the government of North Korea is prepared to sacrifice and put to death, out of a sense of hatred, those Christians who seek to share the good news that God sacrificed and put to death his son out of a sense of love.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.