By BosNewsLife News Center with additional reporting by BosNewsLife Special Correspondent Eric Leijenaar
SEOUL/AMSTERDAM (BosNewsLife) — Persecution of Christians in North Korea “is worse than ever”, amid fresh reports of torture and executions, Christian investigators said Friday, February 2.
Netherlands-based Open Doors, an influential human rights group supporting Christians persecuted for their faith, said North Korea is once again number one of its 2006 World Watch List of over 50 nations with the “worst” religious freedom violations.
With 85 points it was even more serous than last year when Open Doors gave the Communist nation 82 points. â€œIt means that the situation is worse than ever,” said Open Doors Spokesman Jeno Sebok told BosNewsLife.
“In 2006 an increasing number of Christians were detained and many Christian refugees who were repatriated from China were tortured and even killed.”
Among those executed was a contact of US-based World Bible Translation Center (WBTC) who apparently possessed and distributed WBTCâ€™s Easy-to-Read Korean Version of the New Testaments, officials told BosNewsLife earlier.
WBTC Vice President for Publishing and Distribution, John Andersen, said it was ,”the first confirmed death of a Christian martyr who was sharing the Gospel using WBTCâ€™s Scripture texts.” He added that, “throughout the history of this ministry, others have been severely beaten and some believers harassed, but this is the first confirmed death.”
North Korea’s Stalinist system of carrying out Communism is based on “total devotion” of the individual to an ideology promoted by the late leader Kim Il Sung and his successor and son, Kim Jong Il, according to observers who visited the isolated nation. Christianity is seen as a threat. North Korean authorities have denied wrongdoing and say the North Korean people love to seve the isolated country’s “dear leader.”
Open Doors estimates there are up to 70,000 Christians in labor camps, although other observers have said that figure may be even higher. Among others mentioned in the group’s World Watch List are Saudi Arabia on second place with 66,5 points and Iran third with 65,5 points.
Others in the top ten included Somalia (4), Maldives (5), Yemen (6), Bhutan (7), Vietnam (8), Laos (9) and Afghanistan (10), , according to the List released to BosNewsLife by Open Doors’ headquarters in the Dutch town of Ermelo.
Overall the situation for the global Christian community did not improve last year, said Open Doors International Director Johan Companjen. â€œThe World Watch List is a good method to increase awareness for the suffering Church.” he added. He urged Christians to “pray and work” for a change in the situation of reportedly persecuted Christians.
He and other officials also expressed concerns about Saudi-Arabia where all religions other than Islam are banned. A Muslim converting to Christianity can be executed under that country’s strict interpretation of Islamic law.
In at least eight cases former Muslims were detained for several weeks last year for changing their religion, Open Doors and other investigators said. Other countries and areas where the situation of Christians worsened in 2006 were identified by Open Doors as Uzbekistan, Eritrea, Comoros, Iraq, northern Nigeria, Algeria, Mauritania, Turkey, Ethiopia en northeast Kenya.
The World Watch List also spoke also of some improvements regarding religious freedom in Morocco, Indonesia and Nepal. There was only a “moderate” improvement in China, last year, according to the document.
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