North Korea, which tops Open Door’s World Watch List of countries where persecution of Christians is the worst, was one of the countries spotlighted during the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church 13 November. The communist country has topped this list for three straight years. However, thousands of churches around the world came together and joined in praying for suffering brothers and sisters in Christ.
Although there are many countries where Christians are being persecuted daily, this article is on only one of these, North Korea. The following are the words of a North Korean Christian who survived the horrors of prison:
“I experienced life in prison twice and I was also brought to a labor camp once. I stayed there for three months until, with the help of another North Korean Christian, I was released. I had to labor for eighteen hours a day in the most terrible circumstances. The leaders of the camp only provided meals two times a day, each time a cup with ninety pieces of boiled corn. I almost died of starvation and the unbearable, heavy work. Most of the prisoners were full of hatred and complained all day, but the Christians prayed and prayed, even though they were beaten terribly and were treated worse than others. One time I saw a Christian lady who was martyred terribly. They beat her over and over again since she didn’t stop praying. She died peacefully while praying to her Lord.”
In October the United States Department of State released its seventh annual International Religious Freedom Report. North Korea was again listed as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its severe violations of religious freedom. Seven other nations were included in the list.
In North Korea’s “Communist paradise,” there are a few token churches to maintain the pretense of religion, however, a Christian cannot be sure he or she is safe.
Portraits and statues of Kim Il Sung fill the streets and tower high above the rooftops. Both Koreans and tourists have to bow to his image. In some sense, the Communist Party is the source and the aim of life. The Communists have even created their own trinity: Kim Il Sung (the father), Kim Jong Il (the son) and the Juche ideology. It is understood that every North Korean must provide for him or her self.
The living conditions in North Korea are horrific. Prices are high and people are starving. An estimated two to three million people have died over the past ten years due to food shortages. Fifteen percent of children under that age of five are malnourished.
It is believed that thousands of Christians are currently suffering in North Korean prison camps. The country is suspected of detaining more political and religious prisoners than any other country in the world. The government will arrest not only the suspected dissident but also three generations of his or her family to root out the bad influence. Kim Jong Il is the “Dear Leader” and has been exalted and revered as a god to be followed with unquestioned obedience.
Due to the continuing severity of persecution in this communist country, Open Doors has launched a Prayer Campaign for North Korea. The goal of the campaign is to blanket North Korea in prayer twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. To accomplish this, Open Doors USA is seeking Christians who are committed to praying ten minutes a week. Open Doors USA will provide updated information on the status of Christians in North Korea for the prayer warriors.
After the seven-year-long Open Doors prayer campaign for the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall fell. That campaign was followed by ten years of prayer for the Muslim world which resulted in increased requests from Muslims to know Jesus Christ.
The power of prayer has made a difference around the world and we need Christians to unite in powerful, consistent prayer for North Korea. This is your opportunity to make an impact and be a prayer warrior. The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church needs to continue throughout the year. To register for the Prayer Campaign for North Korea, go to www.opendoors.org/3ypnk-us/.
According to an Open Doors co-worker, many people in the underground church in North Korea are aware of the Open Doors international prayer campaign. “The fact that other Christians know about them and pray for them gives them so much strength and hope,” he says. “On behalf of the suffering Christians, I ask you to continue to pray, because without prayer support they can’t spread the gospel and do not find the strength to remain faithful. Without prayer, the North Korean church can’t survive.”
A Week of Prayer for North Korea will be held 19-25 June 2006. To start praying of the persecuted church in North Korea throughout the year, we have included several specific requests below.
Child Beggars. There is much poverty in North Korea, affecting children in particular. There are many street children who have no parents and no home. The children try to get hold of every grain of rice they find lying on the ground near local markets; however, they are often driven away without having had anything to eat. These children have no one to care for them. Pray for good supervision of these children and that they may one day hear the gospel.
Guards/Prisoners. The circumstances in the prison camps in North Korea are appalling. Christians are put in prison camps if it becomes known that they love the Lord Jesus. Please pray these Christians will be able to share Christ’s love with fellow prisoners and guards. One ex-prisoner, Soon Ok Lee, said that the Christians in the camps never denied God. The attitude of these Christians is a testimony in itself. Please pray that fellow prisoners and guards may be touched by these testimonies. Pray that guards in these labor camps will not abuse Christians.
Underground Christians. In North Korea it is not possible to share your faith openly. Any expression of faith in Christ is punished. This does not mean, however, that there are no Christians or that people are not coming to trust in Christ. Although they are in great danger of being sent to a prison camp, the Christians continue worshipping underground. Pray for the underground Christians. Pray they will have safe and encouraging meetings.