Living in one of the most severely persecuted nations on earth, the Christians of North Korea have to be incredibly resourceful when it comes to practicing their faith. The authorities that govern the communist nation have become notorious for arresting, imprisoning, torturing and even executing those who claim to follow Jesus. As such, the estimated 300,000 North Korean Christians have largely been forced underground, with believers meeting at a whole host of secretive locations.
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Such is the severity of persecution faced by many of these brave Jesus followers, that some have even been forced to meet in the middle of rivers so they can hold a simple Bible study without fear of arrest. “If they are caught reading the Bible, they could immediately be sentenced to 15 years in a labor camp – or worse,” noted World Help’s Rachel Godwin in a powerful column written at Fox News.
“They’ve heard the stories of what happens to people who are heard speaking the name of Jesus. Many of them have family members and friends who are living in the camps now … or have been buried there.”
World Help is one organization that is seeking to offer free copies of the Bible to those in nations that have criminalized the possession of scripture in the same way most countries would outlaw a Class A substance.
Godwin wrote of how these terrified Christians had just a couple of Bibles between them as they huddled on the freezing cold river to study the word of God together. Constantly on the lookout, the group became startled when they noticed someone approaching on a small boat. “Police!” they shouted. But as the man pulled up alongside them, he greeted them “in the name of Jesus,” which is something North Korean law enforcement would certainly never, ever do.
The man was from World Help, and was in possession of a whole box of brand new Bibles. “There are only a few Bibles among the church members – not nearly enough for everyone,” Godwin explained. “And each copy is practically falling apart. After years of being carefully studied and then hidden over and over again, the bindings have come loose and pages are beginning to slip out. Many of the Bibles have water damage from these early morning meetings on the boat. But they are still these Christians’ prized possessions … they risk their lives for these Bibles.”
Godwin added that “when the stranger pulls out a box of new Bibles provided there is an immediate celebration on the boat.”
“The believers clutch God’s Word to their chests and many of the people who had not had one previously break down into tears.”
In light of the Bible shortage, World Help has vowed to send 100,000 copies of God’s word to the far-eastern nation.
“A year ago we set the goal of sending 100,000 Bibles to North Korea,” Godwin wrote. “It was both a daunting and ambitious goal, but we knew these Christians are longing for a chance to have a Bible, despite the risks. A year later, we are not far from reaching our goal. With the help of generous supporters more Christians in North Korea now have access to a Bible of their own.”
Christian Persecution organization Open Doors USA has listed North Korea as being the most hostile place on earth for those who follow Jesus.
“Christians are seen as hostile elements in society which have to be eradicated,” the organization notes on its North Korea fact page.
“Due to the constant indoctrination permeating the whole country, neighbors and even family members are highly watchful and report anything suspicious to the authorities. Children are especially vulnerable to the heavy indoctrination. Reports show that some children report their own parents for religious activity. Therefore, many parents prefer not to tell their children anything about their Christian faith until they’re older.”
Despite the continued oppression of Christians under the rule of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, last month the unpredictable leader invited Pope Francis to visit his communist nation. It was a highly unexpected move, particularly as the Vatican and North Korea have no formal diplomatic relations and North Korean Catholics are routinely executed by state forces.
Nevertheless, Pope Francis responded, saying he would seriously consider the invitation. “The pope expressed his willingness,” said the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, according to the Guardian. “We have to wait for it [the invitation] to be formalised.”
However, almost a month later, there has been no further confirmation on a prospective Papal visit.
Continue to pray for the Christians who suffer under the brutal North Korea regime, and find out how you can help send Bibles by heading here.