Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife with Worthy News Asia Service
SEOUL/PYONGYANG (Worthy News) -- Churches around the world were to participate in the International Day of Prayer for North Korea Monday, April 27, shortly after two American Christian bands received awards for their performance in the isolated nation, organizers said.
Casting Crowns and the Annie Moses Band picked up the awards at the April Springs Arts Festival in North Korea, a move Christians hope will lead to more openness for the Gospel in the Communist-run country.
"There is a great urgency for repentance and preparation of the international community and especially the Global Church, as northern Korea opens to the Light of the Gospel," said the Global Justice Prayer Network, an organizer of Monday's annual global prayer day for North Korea.
Casting Crowns, was awarded a gold trophy for their popular hit “Lifesong,” according to the organization that facilitated their first appearance in North Korea in 2007.
Global Resource Service (GRS) also said the Annie Moses Band won an award for their song “Glory Giver,” one of three songs that the classical-fusion ensemble played during the April 10-18 event, reported the well-informed Christian news Web site The Christian Post.
The annual arts event in Pyongyang showcased musicians, dancers and acrobats to celebrate the birthday of the country's late "Great Leader," Kim Il Sung, whose son is the current leader, Kim Jong Il.
Before departing for Pyongyang, Casting Crowns lead singer Mark Hall suggested to reporters that he hopes his band's performance at the festival could help ease international tensions by demonstrating "respect for the people and continue to establish relationships."
It came amid heightened global tensions after North Korea said it would restart its nuclear program, quit disarmament talks, and boot out international inspectors because the United Nations Security Council condemned its April 5 rocket launch.
The performance of Christian musicians in North Korea was seen as remarkable because North Korea’s Stalinist system of carrying out Communism is based on "total devotion" to the nation's leader, an ideology promoted by Kim Il Sung and his successor and son, Kim Jong Il.
Christianity has been viewed as a threat to the regime's power base, observers said. North Korean authorities have denied wrongdoing and say the North Korean people love to serve their leader.
However the North Korean Freedom Coalition (NKFC), a Christian-backed pressure group, and other nizations say as many as 400,000 Christians are estimated to worship secretly in the country. Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are believed to be held in political prison camps, including many Christians.