What Does Peace Between the Koreas Mean for Persecuted Christians?
Does peace between the Koreas mean more intellectual and religious freedom in the North?
On Friday, Kim Jong-un became the first North Korean leader to cross the border into South Korea since the end of the Korean war in 1953.
According to the BBC, Kim Jong-un also said this was a starting point and pledged a “new history” in the relationship with South Korea.
In response, three questions immediately come to mind:
- What does this mean for the 300,000 Christians who are forced to keep their faith a secret?
- What will the denuclearization and peace talks do to help expedite the release of over 50,000 Christians suffering in hard labor camps because they believe in Jesus?
- Will we see more intellectual and religious freedom in the North in response to these peace talks with the South—and later with the U.S.?
It’s hard to answer these questions. A landmark visit like this could indeed signal a shift—even a subtle one—in North Korea’s hardline stance as a closed and militant country. And it’s possible that this visit is the beginning of answered prayers to relieve some of the pressure on persecuted believers in the North.
However, Open Doors CEO, David Curry, reminds us to be cautious in our expectations:
“Despite breathless rhetoric around what is nonetheless a historic moment, the world must remember that nothing yet has changed for the estimated 300,000 North Korean Christians who must live their faith in secret, or face imprisonment and death. Open Doors cautions that the smiling man who just crossed from North Korea to South Korea in today’s ceremony is the same man who has ordered countless murders and imprisonments in a place the Open Doors World Watch List has ranked for 17 years as the most dangerous country in the world to be a Christian. I am hopeful true progress has been achieved, not only toward denuclearization—which is good for the entire world—but also away from a totalitarian state under which many North Korean Christians have suffered for decades, including more than 50,000 who are still in hard-labor camps. Let these first steps across the border take us down a road of lasting change for those who have suffered long enough.”
With the long history of Christian persecution within the country, it’s difficult to imagine anything will change quickly. And, in all the talks so far nothing has been mentioned about opening the country to new ideas or changing the political system or allowing free thought to flow across the border.
Discussions on denuclearization and peace are both good starting points, but the future for North Korean Christians is an urgent matter.The world must remember that nothing yet has changed for the estimated 300,000 North Korean Christians who must live their faith in secret, or face imprisonment and death. #Pray4NorthKorea Click To Tweet
What should we do in response?
Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors, once said: “If we would understand the potential power of our prayers, we would be on our knees a hundred times a day and ask Him things that would turn the world upside down.”
This historic event between the Koreas should drive us to an increased sensitivity to our brothers and sisters in Christ who strive to follow Jesus behind the border—and encourage persistent and intense prayers for their intellectual and religious freedom that hangs in the balance.
Our prayers should be as bold as to ask for total religious freedom—and the rapid growth of the church in North Korea.
North Korea has been No. 1 on the World Watch List—as the most dangerous country in the world for Christians—for 17 consecutive years. To see it move, even a few slots on the list would signal a radical answer to prayer for the persecuted inside North Korea.
So what does peace between the Koreas mean for persecuted Christians? In short, nothing yet. But it should continually spur us on to remember the suffering Body of Christ in North Korea.
These talks are also a great reminder to take action. One thing we can do right now is to urgently ask President Trump to make human rights and religious freedom part of his upcoming talks with Kim Jong-un.
We spoke with John Choi, a Christian refugee from North Korea, about the upcoming talks between President Trump and Kim Jong-un and he encouraged the church in the West to raise their voices: “I pray Christians will urgently appeal to President Trump to put pressure on Kim Jong-un when the two leaders meet. If President Trump is silent, it will imply the West doesn’t care about the incarceration, torture and execution of Christians. There can be no true peace if Kim Jong-un continues to persecute Christians.”@POTUS, URGENT: please make religious freedom part of your talks with Kim Jong-un! We can't let the incarceration, torture and execution of innocent Christians continue! #Pray4NorthKorea Click To Tweet
As the news continues to develop, please remember your brothers and sisters who are isolated, suffer extreme persecution and long for religious freedom in North Korea.