Eric Leijenaar, Worthy News Senior Special Correspondent
SEOUL/AMSTERDAM (Worthy News) -- Thousands of North Korean Christians have received food and Christian education from a major Western organization, despite fresh attempts by North Korea's leadership to crackdown on foreign aid, Worthy News established Wednesday, March 18.
Netherlands-based advocacy group Open Doors said it gave Biblical training to over 4,000 Christians from the world's most isolated nation in 2008, about 10 times more than in 2007 when "440 North Koreans received Christian education."
In addition, the group said it has provided food, clothing, Bibles and other christian literature to tens of thousands of North Koreans via "underground networks of the North Korean Church" wich "consists of some 400,000 Christians."
Over 54,000 people in North Korea reportedly received food and other social support from Open Doors, nearly a quarter of the aid provided by the group worldwide last year.
News of the secret aid came as the United States State Department warned Wednesday March 18, that North Korea, which suffers from chronic food shortages and where some people are believed to be on the brink of starvation, has rejected food aid from the U.S.
NORTH KOREA CONCERNS
Analysts linked the refusal to concerns within North Korea's leadership that there are spies among foreign aid workers, several of whom work deep inside the country.
Open Doors stressed it would continue to provide food, but made clear that Christians also asked for Bibles. "Christians in North Korea know very little about the Bible," Open Doors spokesman Klaas Muurling explained.
"However North Korean church leaders are less afraid than several years ago. They are now well-trained and spread their knowledge to other Christians," he explained. "We will continue to spread the Gospel in North Korea," one Christian was quoted as saying in a message from the country.
Open Doors said it also supports North Korean women in China, many of whom were allegedly abused by human smugglers. "About 40 North Korean women receive every year Bibles, education and financial support for themselves and their children," the group explained.
North Korea is number one on Open Doors' world Watch List of countries with religious rights violations. Open Doors admitted it had less success in China where it distributed 2.3 million Bibles last year. It wanted to distribute 4 million Bibles, "but due to the Olympic Games authorities enforced strict controls."
Worldwide, Open Doors distributed nearly 4 million Bibles in 2008, the organization said. In total over 114,000 Christian leaders reportedly received Biblical training from the group last year, including in India, where Open Doors noted a rise in attacks against Christians. (With reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).