Nowhere in North Korea is Christmas celebrated publicly. And if anyone is discovered celebrating Christmas, they risk their whole family being arrested, imprisoned, tortured and killed. Secret believers must keep most of their celebrations in their hearts. With the current food crisis in the country, it’s difficult to imagine believers having special food for Christmas this year. They might whisper hymns and pray in a hidden place, perhaps secretly reading the Bible if they have one.
Despite the persecution they face, our brothers and sisters in North Korea have hope, and don’t just pray for themselves, but also for others – for their neighbors, friends, colleagues, even their oppressors. They’re obedient in following the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44: “Pray for those who mistreat and persecute you.”
What do North Koreans hope for their country?
The current challenges the country is facing, both food shortages and COVID cases, are reflected in the hopes of my North Korean friends who now live outside of North Korea. They shared their hopes and prayers for their native country:
Il-ho*, who now lives in the UK, hopes North Korean people will be able to have at least one nice meal during the holidays. “My wishes for them are that they endure the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and that no one dies of starvation next year.”
Ji-Yong*, also now based in the UK, shares: “I feel guilty each time I have a nice meal in the UK. I know COVID is making things very hard, and there is a lack of rice, corn and flour in the market. I really hope there is humanitarian aid and basic food for North Korean people.”
Myong-sook*, who now lives in Seoul, finds it difficult to think of Christmas or New Year in North Korea. The situation has only gotten worse since her escape several years ago. “It leaves me in tears,” she says. “My new year wish is that there is continuing evangelism by secret believers in North Korea. Underground churches and secret believers are the salt and light in the darkness.”
Seng-he*, based in the UK, is thankful for where she is now during the pandemic. “But it makes me feel sad when thinking of North Korean people, particularly during the Christmas and New Year holidays. It is difficult to predict, but there is a tomorrow for my brothers and sisters in North Korea, and my thoughts and prayers for them in the New Year will continue.”
I echo my friends’ prayers in my own prayer for North Korea. I pray I will not hear of anyone who died of starvation. I usually cry when I pray for my brothers and sisters in North Korea. Sometimes my tears don’t come, but my heart feels the pain of their starvation and suffering, prisoners screaming for survival, street children crying for their parents as I did, and the deep sigh of families’ whispering, “We survived another day.”
My new year wish is for more prayers from God’s people, and for international ‘Good Samaritans’ to reach into this dark land. During the holiday season, I will light a candle and pray for my brothers and sisters in North Korea. I know God loves them.