A new short documentary film exposes the challenges North Korean Christians have endured in a nation where millions have never even heard the name of Jesus. Despite severely repressive conditions, pastors and scholars are envisioning a new future for the repressed nation.
As the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom was held just miles away, the film “Humanity Denied: Religious Freedom in North Korea” from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission was shown for the first time at the Senate Dirksen building Thursday. Preceding the film, a panel of experts spoke on the situation in the Far East country.
“The situation in North Korea is absolutely dire,” said Olivia Enos, a policy analyst in Asian studies at the Heritage Foundation, noting that credible reports consistently rank North Korea as the worst place in the world for Christians and anyone of any faith in terms of oppression and human rights violations.
The 2014 Commission of Inquiry Report by the U.N., she noted, explains that North Koreans who escaped to China yet were repatriated were asked two questions, namely, if they had any contact with South Koreans or if they interacted with any Christian missionaries. If they answered yes to either of those questions they faced severe repercussions like torture and imprisonment.
“This is emblematic of what it’s like to be a Christian inside North Korea.” she said, adding that “it’s very telling how the Kim regime conceives of religion in general.”
Communist governments are right to fear religion, she added, citing how peaceful religious movements toppled communist regimes in decades past as in Eastern Europe.
“The Kim regime sees religion as potentially threatening to its leadership.”
Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American pastor, who was held hostage in North Korea from 2012 to 2014, explained that when North Korean authorities arrested him and found out that he was a missionary, he was told that he was trying to overthrow the North Korean government. For years, Bae had been leading teams into North Korea so they could visit as tourists but pray and worship while in the land.
The North Koreans also told him that if one person came back and started an orphanage and 10 children became Christians, they will only multiply from there and present a threat to the nation.
“They said ‘we are not afraid of nuclear weapons … we are afraid of someone like you bringing religion into our country and use it against us and then everybody will turn to God and this will become God’s country and we will fall,” Bae told the dozens gathered at the event.
Bae was informed that he was probably the most dangerous American criminal they had ever had since the Korean War. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, and was then sent to a North Korean labor camp. He was ultimately released in 2014.
Pyongyang was once known as the “Jerusalem of the Far East” and had a strong Christian presence, he explained. But today, except for the faith of those few who have been forced underground, most North Koreans have never heard the name of Jesus. In all the hundreds of refugees that he has met, Bae recounted that he never met a single escapee who fled North Korea that had heard of Jesus.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Brandon Showalter