The Gospel Goes Forth Despite DPRK’s War on Christianity
January 16, 2014
North Korean believers face harsh penalties if they are caught conducting any form of religious activities.
When the international ministry Open Doors released its 2014 World Watch List last week, no one was surprised to find North Korea at the top of the rankings—again. For the 12th year in a row the communist country stands apart as the greatest persecutor of Christians.
“The God-like worship of the leader, Kim Jong-Un, and his predecessors leaves no room for any other religion, and Christians face unimaginable pressure in every sphere of life,” stated the Open Doors website. “Forced to meet only in secret, they dare not share their faith even with their families, for fear of imprisonment in a labor camp. Anyone discovered engaging in secret religious activity may be subject to arrest, disappearance, torture, even public execution.”
Joining North Korea (DPRK) in the top 10 list of countries where Christian persecution is the most severe were Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, followed by Maldives, Pakistan, Iran, and Yemen.
An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are believed to be imprisoned in North Korean labor camps for practicing their faith. Possession of a Bible is grounds for execution or, perhaps worse, a lifelong sentence as a political prisoner.
Decades of condemnation and brutality against Christians may have hampered the spread of the gospel, but the government has not been able to eradicate God’s Word from people’s hearts. With nothing else to cling to, North Korean believers find their sure hope and refuge in the Lord Jesus, and some are willing to risk their lives so that others might know the Savior.
Christian Aid Mission assists the work of an underground church-planting ministry that trains Christian leaders and encourages North Korean believers to remain committed to Christ despite intense persecution.
In December the ministry sent out teams to distribute 90 gift packages to North Korean gospel workers. The packages contained items such as hats, gloves, socks, medicine, and household supplies. Most of the goods were purchased at a wholesale market in a city in China.
“We have learned that bringing gifts for North Korean believers connects us to them,” explained the ministry leader. “Christianity means fellowship. They will see that they are not alone and know that we are here to pray for and support them.”
Food snacks were also included in the packages, as basic staples are expensive and in short supply due to recurring droughts, bad weather, and mismanagement of resources.
“When we hear from the underground church members in North Korea who come to visit our shelter, their stories are so sorrowful and desperate,” he said. “They are experiencing very difficult situations for their primary living. They have no food and have to worry all day long about how to get that day’s food.”
Three years ago the ministry delivered bags of New Year’s treats—rice cakes and assorted candies—to one group of believers. Deeply appreciative, in return the group sent ministry workers dried fish that they had caught in the river.
However, smuggling items as harmless as cookies or as risky as Scriptures into the hands of eager believers is no simple feat. Avoiding detection by the police poses a constant challenge.
Christian Aid Mission helped provide Christmas care packages for gospel workers in North Korea.
Last month two workers were taken into custody by police after they were accused of “carrying Christmas cards that were printed in the USA and because they were distributing gifts to local North Korean people,” the ministry leader told Christian Aid.
“We heard that the detainees received sentences of six months and 1 ½ years in jail,” he said. “Our local team leader has spent a lot of money to rescue them or to reduce their sentences.”
The police presence was described as “very tense” in one of the areas where workers distributed gifts. The ministry leader said some short-term evangelists were arrested a few months ago “because they were too aggressive and openly evangelized.”
He also reported that two North Korean underground church leaders had been arrested last fall.
The church-planting ministry also comes to the aid of North Korean refugees, giving them food as well as spiritual nourishment through the good news of Jesus Christ. Those who receive Christ are offered training in Bible basics, evangelism and discipleship, house church growth, and working wisely and effectively within North Korea. Sometimes the ministry helps believers set up businesses.
During the past five years the ministry has reached, trained, and sent out more than 180 North Korean refugees as gospel workers. In 2014 the ministry hopes to train and send out 24 additional church planters.
These courageous believers need our prayers as they place themselves in harm’s way to carry out the work they feel God has called them to do. The ministry has asked Christian Aid to support their efforts by supplying funds for evangelistic outreach and by helping to cover the living expenses and medical needs of the workers.
“They live a lonely life with few other believers, knowing they are being sought after, and if found out by the police, killed or assigned to hard labor, possibly for the rest of their lives,” said the ministry leader. “They need at least one prayer friend who will constantly pray God’s strong arms around them. They need a prayer friend who will adopt them and pray with them as they share Jesus and teach God’s Word.”