Displaying items by tag: North Korea
Christians are increasingly being persecuted violently: by brutal IS in the Middle East, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Hindu extremists in India. Release International issued a report on persecution trends in 2021. It is a wake-up call to take our prayers for our persecuted family to new levels. Nigerian attacks are driven by Islamist ideologies to destroy ‘the infidels’. 300 Christians remain detained without trial inside Eritrea. The Chinese government is increasing its ‘clean-cup’ of anything that does not advance the communist agenda. North Korea’s policy against Christians is the longest, harshest persecution in recorded history. Iranians constantly fear they are under surveillance when they meet secretly. The pressure has led to an exodus from Iran that will continue in 2021. Egyptian Christian converts from a Muslim background will continue to pay a high price for their faith and will be expelled from their families, divorced, and lose their employment.
Speaking at a party conference, Kim Jong Un has told citizens to prepare for hard times ahead, following warnings from rights groups that the country faces dire food shortages and economic instability. North Korea has shut its borders due to the coronavirus pandemic, and trade with China, its economic lifeline, has come to a standstill. This is on top of existing international economic sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear programme. In a rare admission of looming hardship, the authoritarian leader of the single-party state called on officials to ‘wage another, more difficult Arduous March in order to relieve our people of the difficulty, even a little’. The Arduous March is a term used by North Korean officials to refer to the country's struggle during the 1990s famine, when the fall of the Soviet Union left the country without crucial aid. The total number who starved to death is not known, but estimates range up to three million.
A rare insight into the persecution endured by Christians living under the totalitarian North Korean regime has been given by Sookyung Kang, a Christian who fled her homeland to be able to worship freely without risking her life. She said, ‘The regime tries to control people by idolising and divinising the leaders. I believe the Gospel gives freedom to everyone. But the regime takes away freedom and won’t allow people to think freely.’ North Korea has set up ‘quarantine camps’ for Covid-19 patients, where they are deprived of food and medicine, causing many to die of starvation. Some believers have been executed simply for owning a Bible. Tens of thousands of Christians - sometimes entire families - have been incarcerated in labour camps where they are abused, tortured and worked to death.
Things in North Korea seem a bit murkier than usual, not that it is ever very clear what is going on up there.
The latest big questions have to do with Kim Jong-un's health. There are knowledgeable friends of mine who are very sure his health is not good and it stands to reason that his life-style is not a healthy one, yet there are mixed signals and confusing reports.
A former aid to former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung insists that the leader has been in a coma since March and that the various reports of his activities and photos are all fake. Some are saying that he is either sharing power with his sister, Kim Yo-jong, as indicated by the South's National Intelligence Agency, or that she is second in command. However, this is not getting much credence in the South where the government insists that he is still very much in control and active. And, she failed to appear at a recent Politburo meeting. There was serious flooding earlier this month in Unpa County. Kim Jong-un showed up driving his luxury SUV to survey the damage in a photo that it seems would be very difficult to fake. He insisted that food supplies be sent to the stricken county for which people express great gratitude--but it's still difficult there.
While things are unclear at the highest levels, the Covid-19 situation is equally as obscure. As we saw last month, Kim Jong-un stated that there was no Covid-19 in the North until a former defector re-defected to the North from the South bringing in the virus, while the South Korean police insist he was virus-free. Now the authorities have locked down the cities of Samjiyon and Hyesan because a woman crossed the border from China. They have also suspended all trade across the border with China and have halted major building projects all because of the pandemic. The hits on the economy are serious threats to the Leader's position. Prior to the arrival of Typhoon Bavi, Kim Jong-un called for three major crisis meetings about Covid-19, the coming storm and the need to continue restoration work from flooding earlier in the month.
As if all of this is not enough trouble in the North, there was a massive gas explosion in the city of Hyesan that levelled many houses, left a number of people dead and injured more. It appeared that little, if anything was being done by the authorities in response.
Finally, we continue to be concerned about the civil rights situation in South Korea where the government continues to crack down on North Korean defector and human rights groups as well as continuing its anti-leaflet campaign. Here is a two part article (Part 1 and Part 2) on Voice of the Martyrs Korea and their efforts to get Bibles into North Korea. Please pray that the Word of God get into this land that cannot stand for knowledge to enter the country.
Remembering Our Brothers in Prison
We've been praying for six South Korean missionaries held in the North, Kim Jung-wook, Kim Kuk-gi, Choi Chun-gil, Kim Won-ho, Ham Jin-woo and Ko Hyun-chul. We are excited to share that a new effort is underway urging that they be repatriated. You can join the campaign by signing the petition here. There are some young men who are on a pilgrimage to raise awareness of the situation. We continue to pray for Daily NK journalist, Choi Song Min (alias). Here's information on the pastors and others who have been detained and released. Please remember them in your prayers.
Calling our Nations to Repentance
40 days of worship and prayer from September 1st to October 11th calling Korean Christians to return to their first love and to carry the Gospel into all the world. Please check out the 40 Days website.
The Fourth River Project, Inc. - www.thefourthriver.org
See our Prayer for Korea article below, prepared by our colleagues at NGI
After fleeing from North Korea to China, Prisoner 42 was captured and sent to a North Korean prison camp, where she spent one year in solitary confinement. Guards shaved her head and stripped her. Each morning when they called for her, she crawled out of a door flap, typically used for dogs or cats, and kept her head bowed low because she was not allowed to make eye contact with the guards. They would ask her the same questions, ‘Why were you in China? Who did you meet? Did you go to church? Did you have a Bible? Did you meet any South Koreans? Are you a Christian?’ She lied to stay alive. She was beaten and kicked daily. She said,’ It hurts the most when they hit my ears. My ears ring for hours, sometimes days’. She was later sent to a re-education camp where she met other secret Christians. After two years she was released from detention.
What began as an activity restriction in South Korea is turning into an assault on religious freedom. In June, police stopped Voice of the Martyrs Korea from sending Bibles across the border to North Korea. Today, the ministry and its co-founder, Eric Foley, face criminal investigations. ‘Balloon launching has been difficult since we began in 2005. However, now there is a large scale effort to declare balloon launching illegal’, Foley explains. ‘It’s unclear, at this point, how things will go.’ He said the government’s motives and methods remain dubious, as launching has become a deeply political subject. He added, ‘North Korea made a very public offensive against balloon launching that was adopted by South Korean authorities. This was the impetus to say it is illegal, not through new laws, but through the application of other laws. The issue is not about balloon launching; it’s about the legal right to do private ministry work outside government mediation.’
Global case counts of COVID-19 quietly clicked past 1 million 2nd April afternoon on the Johns Hopkins tracking map, revealing the disease’s startling speed and reach since it emerged 4 months ago.
The pandemic is afflicting countries unevenly as the US muffed its early response, while China acted with strong-armed efficiency, and many others are yet to be tested.
The US: Though the novel coronavirus has emerged in all 50 states, the media focus has zeroed in on New York, which has more than 92,000 cases. That will likely change in the coming days as new hotspots emerge, according to Scientific American.
The American South is at special risk with high numbers of cases per capita. Albany, Georgia has 13 per 10,000 people, for example. And, as Bloomberg News points out, the region already has some of the poorest health indicators in the country (4 of 5 states with highest diabetes rates) and a lack of health care access that includes shuttered rural hospitals. Of the 239 coronavirus deaths in New Orleans, “40% had diabetes, 25% were obese and 21% had heart problems,” Bloomberg reports.
Africa: WHO has announced that new COVID-19 cases are being reported in Africa at a dramatically accelerating pace as the number topped this week, according to The Citizen (Tanzania). Another worrying sign: Cases are beginning to emerge outside capitals and other large cities. The coronavirus has been detected across South Africa, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Senegal.
Also: Very few of the more than 300 clinical trials that are underway to seek a COVID-19 treatment are in Africa, Nature reports. The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative is part of the new COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition seeking to remedy this.
South Africa: Though the country has the most cases (1,462) on the continent, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize are being lauded for leading an effective and efficient battle against COVID-19, according to the BBC. However, the response also has included rounding up 1,000 homeless men and forcing them into a sports stadium in Pretoria, CNN International reports.
Ecuador: Officials in Guayaquil report more than 400 deaths in recent days as morgues have been overwhelmed and some bodies have been wrapped in plastic and left on street. UPI
Indonesia: The 170 COVID-19 deaths reported in recent weeks have surpassed nearly 2 decades of bird flu deaths. The Jakarta Post
North Korea: Assertions that the country is coronavirus-free has been viewed skeptically. The Guardian
Reporting from Johns Hopkins University: https://www.globalhealthnow.org/2020-04/1-million
Further data on Europe and the world: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/geographical-distribution-2019-ncov-cases
BBC news article about the 18 countries who don’t have Covid-19 at the time of writing: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-52120439
Pray: Lord God, the One who has Almighty power, we agree according to your promise in Matthew 18:18-20 that this virus will be stopped in its tracks. That the medical researchers will get a download from Heaven on how to quickly develop a vaccine to counteract COVID-19 and a cure for those who have become infected.
We also agree in prayer, asking that the Body of Christ worldwide will rise up in love and boldness, trusting in your blood to cover and protect us and throwing off fear, so that we can be available to serve, bless, and bear witness to those around us who are terrified and depressed at being infected.
Let us seize this unprecedented opportunity to make you known to those without hope in Christ!
Thank you for your promise that surely, you will be with us "always, even to the very end of the age” so that we can carry on with the mission you have given us for our world (Matthew 28:20).
Join in Online Prayers:
Additional Prayer Resources for Coronavirus
A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE ON COVID-19 By Dr Ruth Valerio and Gideon Heugh (Tear Fund)
A coronavirus prayer from Pete Greig
19 Things to Do in response to Coronavirus
Prophecy Today UK’s Responses to Coronavirus
PrayerCast Video and Prayer Briefing
Operation World's Covid-19 Prayers for the Nations and Prayer Calendar
A woman who fled to China illegally was recently baptised, even though such an action could have resulted in her being repatriated and killed. Over two years ago, Bon-Hwa crossed the border into China, where it is illegal to help North Korean escapees. Despite the risk, Open Doors partners have set up ‘safe houses’ along the border for North Korean Christians, as well as for women who could be forced into a marriage. It was at one of these safe houses that Bon-Hwa became a Christian. It was too risky to be baptised in her new home town, so she and two other Christians, including the pastor, walked many hours to a remote location for the service. The pastor said he almost cried: ‘It was a beautiful moment and such a privilege to baptise a North Korean believer in these circumstances.’
North Korea performed another ‘crucial test’ successfully at its long-range rocket launch site. The Trump administration is under continuing pressure for major concessions as it approaches an end-of-year deadline set by leader Kim Jong Un to salvage faltering nuclear negotiations. Kim has hinted at resuming nuclear and long-range missile tests if Trump fails to make substantial concessions before the new year. The US ambassador said that ballistic testing was ‘deeply counterproductive’ and risks ending prospects for negotiating peace, adding that Trump is ‘prepared to be flexible’ on resuming talks. North Korea called her comments ‘hostile provocation’, warning that Washington may have squandered chances to salvage fragile nuclear diplomacy. Pray for an end to words of offence and anger.
Open Doors latest report brings much sobering reading, but also a few positive glimmers.
North Korea (1) tops the World Watch List for the 18th year in a row. Despite its ranking in the top slot it did free three Korean-American Christians from a North Korean prison.
Persecution of Christians is getting worse. Five years ago only one country – North Korea – was ranked in the ‘extreme’ category for its level of persecution of Christians. This year, 11 countries score enough to fit that category.
China (27) has risen 16 places in the list after new Regulations for Religious Affairs came into force in February 2018.
In Myanmar (18) tens of thousands of members of the Karen tribe – a majority-Christian ethnic tribe – have been killed and least 120,000 displaced.
India (10) has entered the top ten for the first time. The BJP-led government continues to promote an extremist militant Hindu agenda.
In Turkey (26) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been stirring up ultra-nationalistic sentiment for some time and this has caused added difficulties for Christians in Turkey, especially Evangelicals.
As radical Islam has been forced out of the Middle East, it has spread into sub-Saharan Africa. Almost 30 violent Islamic extremist groups are known to be active in the region.
Islamic militants also have also gained strength in failed states like Somalia (3), Libya (4) and Yemen (8), where they continue to recruit, and capture pockets of territory.
The two places where Christians suffer the most violence are Nigeria (12) and Pakistan (5).
THE WORLD WATCH LIST: THREE MAIN TRENDS
Three major trends have shaped persecution against Christians this year:
Authoritarian states are clamping down and using legal regulations to control religion.
Ultra-nationalists are depicting Christians as ‘alien’ or ‘western’ and trying to drive them out.
Radical Islam has moved from the Middle East to sub-Saharan Africa.
It’s not all bad news! There is light in the darkness, and the courageous faith of Christians is evident, even in the harshest conditions.
Worldwide: Above all, the World Watch List shows that the church is active and alive. Persecution is rising – but that only happens where the church is actively sharing the gospel and living it out.
Read the full report and download resources from the Open Doors Website Here: https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/trends/
Pray: Lets continue to be in prayer for the estimated 245 million people worldwide who are persecuted for their Christian faith.
Pray: For those who are in prison, detention or separation from their families, due to their faith.
Pray: For the estimated 11 people a day who are martyred for being a Christian – and for their families and loved ones. (Rev 2:10)
Pray: For strength and encouragement for the Church of Christ – that it will continue to grow and flourish despite the persecution.