Protests of Christian persecution gaining traction in U.S.
by Dwayne Hastings
November 1, 2002
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The revelation by North Korea that it had engaged in a clandestine operation to develop nuclear weapons, contrary to promises made to the Clinton administration in 1994, thrust the Asian nation again into the news. However, many in the United States have had the communist nation on their minds and in their prayers for years for its shoddy record in human rights.
At least one advocacy group for persecuted Christians believes North Korea has the worst record of oppressing Christians of any nation in the world.
Open Doors, an international ministry to persecuted Christians around the globe, placed North Korea atop its annual “World Watch List,” bumping Saudi Arabia from its perennial and infamous place in the top spot. The list ranks countries according to the level of persecution Christians endure for their faith in Jesus Christ.
Christian refugees from famine-swept North Korea who manage to traverse the border into China tell aid workers there that despite the severe oppression in North Korea, house churches exist in the nation. Open Doors reports the policy of communist dictator Kim Jong II, like his father, is to demand unswerving allegiance from the nation’s citizens. Christians are sought out and eliminated for their refusal to worship Kim himself, the report said.
North Korea is regarded as the “most hard-line atheistic nation” in the world, according to Paul Marshall in the book, “Religious Freedom in the World.”
“The people of North Korea are perhaps the least free on earth,” the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom stated in an Oct. 3 letter to President Bush. In the letter, the USCIRF, an independent federal agency that advises the president and Congress on religious liberty issues, urged the president to make human rights and religious freedoms primary conditions in any talks seeking improved bilateral relations.
“The U.S. should not abandon human rights — and be seen to legitimize the horrific abuses of the North Korean regime — for promises on military issues,” USCIRF chair Felice D. Gaer said in the letter. North Korea was cited by the Bush administration in 2001 as a “country of particular concern” for its severe violations of religious liberty.
“Religious freedom does not exist as the state severely represses public and private religious activities, including arresting and imprisoning — and in some cases torturing and executing — persons engaged in such activities,” she continued.
North Korea is not the only country that makes a habit of denying its citizens religious liberty. It is estimated that 200 million Christians are being persecuted worldwide and another 400 million Christians are living with restrictions on their religious freedom.
Richard Land said revulsion against widespread acts of persecution against Christians is slowly gaining traction across the United States, prompted in part by the national news media’s newfound willingness to report on attacks against Christians coupled with a growing awareness of the issue among evangelicals.
“Just over five years ago, the maltreatment of Christians around the world gained a much greater hearing when an international day of prayer was declared to call Christians to remember their brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith in Christ,” explained Land, who was appointed to serve on the USCIRF by President Bush last year. The 2002 International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (www.persecutedchurch.org) is Nov. 10.
“The deadly attacks and harassment aimed at Christians is condoned, and even sanctioned, by some governments and carried out by fanatical bands of marauders,” Land said. “While some improvement in this arena has occurred, Christians continue to be the target of assaults, imprisonment and even death.”
Muslim backlash against Christians has claimed the lives of 39 Pakistani citizens, and 75 Pakistan Christians have been injured in attacks since last October, Land said. Armed gunmen killed eight believers in a Pakistani Christian welfare organization Sept. 25. News reports indicate the seven victims were bound and gagged and then shot point-blank in the head in the offices of the Institute for Peace and Justice in Karachi.
Churches, Christian schools and hospitals all have been targets of the anti-Christian terrorism in Pakistan, Land continued, while noting Christian persecution does not always involve violence.
In Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, Christian orphanages and programs for the poor are being forced to close their doors because those served by the ministries are placing their faith in Christ much to the chagrin of local Buddhists, a news report from Christian Aid reveals. The nation’s socialist government provides Buddhists interest-free loans and supplemental rice allotments, while leaving the Christians to fend for themselves in the economically depressed country.
“Our persecuted brothers and sisters are asking for our prayers,” Land said. “We must be obedient to the command of Hebrews 13 in praying for them as well as for those who oppress them.”
Used with Permission from Baptist Press.