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In Spite Of Intense Persecution, Christianity On The Rise In North Korea

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It’s no secret that the citizens of North Korea endure a life devoid of basic freedoms under the Communist yoke of the Kim family. As North Korean escapee-turned-human rights advocate, Yeonmi Park stated in a speech, “North Korea is the only country that will put you to death for making unauthorized international phone calls.”

It’s of little wonder then that for the last 16 years, Open Doors, a watchdog site dedicated to keeping an eye on Christian persecution, has ranked North Korea #1 as the deadliest place for Christians to live. According to the website, North Korean Christians face a brutal life that is subject to hard labor camps, imprisonment and even execution. The high level of surveillance in the country, it is nearly impossible for small groups to come together in worship, nor do they dare close their eyes to pray for fear of being spotted.

The Blaze’s Brandon Morse wrote a compelling piece regarding the treatment of North Korean Christians. In it he wrote that while North Korea possesses a constitution which asserts a non-discriminatory policy toward religion, it’s all an act. Morse states in his article:

“Foreign diplomats and tourists are wheeled past state-run churches and mosques for various faiths. Each of these churches has the appropriately dressed clergy worshiping at the appropriate alters with congregations of people passing around collection plates.

According to the Korea Risk Group, this is a show performed by hand-picked state workers. The reality is that Christianity is seen as dangerous to the state, according to Fox News. Those caught practicing it face the harshest penalties.”

The piece goes on to say:

“Christians are accused of being imperialists seeking to overthrow the government and those who are caught practicing their faith are arrested, horrendously tortured, imprisoned and [sometimes] immediately put to death,”

Reading through Morse’s piece, I was reminded of an apology (a letter making a defense of the Christian faith) that Tertullian wrote in the second century during  a time when the early Christian church was facing horrific persecution. First and second century Christians were also accused of trying to “overthrow the government” by refusing to sacrifice to the Roman gods who were believed to help hold the empire together.

Tertullian wrote:

“We all pray without ceasing for all emperors, beseeching for
them a long life, a secure reign; that their families may be preserved in safety, their armies brave, the senate faithful, the people honest, the
whole world peaceful, and whatever other things either the people or the emperor can desire and yet the Christians are treated as public
enemies, because they refuse to ascribe vain, and lying, and unauthorised honours to the empe­rors; because, in the spirit of true religion, their services are seated in the heart, rather than displayed in wanton excess.’

He goes on to say:

“If, then, we are commanded to love our enemies, whom have we to hate ? If, when injured, we are forbidden to return evil for evil, lest we should be like our adversaries, whom can we hurt ? And on this point do ye yourselves be judges. For how frequently do ye use violence against the Christians, sometimes at the instigation of private malice, and sometimes according to the forms of law.”

It’s sad to see how, with all our supposed progress, in many cases around the world, not just in North Korea, the character of human beings has changed very little since the second century.

The Blaze’s article concludes by saying, “Despite efforts to eradicate Christians, we have found the church is North Korea is actually growing,”. It’s estimated that currently in North Korea, there are around 9 million Christians and that number continues to grow.

Perhaps there is something to be said about what Tertullian wrote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Watch Yeonmi Park retell her story of escaping North Korea:

Born in West Virginia but raised in Chicago, Misty is a Fellow of the C.S. Lewis Institute and radio broadcaster. She has a passion for history, Christian apologetics, and great food! Misty also has a heart for spreading awareness about multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that claimed the life of her mother in 2013. She also occasionally writes for the Christian apologetics website AClearLens.org

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