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BosNewsLife – Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) urged churches around the world on Wednesday September 14 to participate in the Week of Prayer for North Korea , amid reports of executions and torture. CSW’s appeal to participate in the Week, from September 19 through September 25, came after recent reports that an estimated 200,000 people, many of them Christians, are locked up in prison labor camps across the Communist country.

“The immensity of the need and the deep spiritual darkness in North Korea requires urgent and intense prayer by the Body of Christ”, said CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas.

North Korea “is probably the most closed of all societies in the world today” and its walls of isolation have very effectively blocked the population from hearing the Gospel, CSW said. Referring to the Bible, CSW said there “is no freedom to preach the Gospel and the whole nation is forced to revere the leaders in a form of idolatry that is reminiscent of that imposed by [King] Nebuchadnezzar in [Prophet] Daniel’s time.”

Human right activists say the authorities impose harsh penalties on people sharing their Christian faith. Punishments reportedly include execution or imprisonment in one of the “brutal prison camps” run by the regime to apparently suppress any potential threat to its power.

“Even family members of a Christian can be dragged off to such camps under the abhorrent concept of guilt by association,” CSW said.

This month former North Korean prisoner Kang Cheol Hwan and human rights campaigner met British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to urge the UK to use its influence as current chair of the European Union to pressure North Korea .

Kang spent ten years in a prison labor camp for the alleged crime of a relative from the age of nine and was released in 1987. “Asked about the current situation, Mr. Kang confirmed that the gulag system exists today, with an estimated 200,000 inmates,” said CSW in a statement to BosNewsLife News Center . Many Christians are among the detainees, church groups say.

“Those imprisoned are forced to live in conditions of terror, dehumanizing abuse, violence, forced labor and starvation. The few survivors who have escaped such camps and the country recount harrowing tales of death and inhumanity,” CSW said.

“Even within this barbaric environment, Christians are singled out for particularly harsh treatment, given the most dangerous and unsanitary jobs and subject to ongoing pressure and abuse.” United States President George W. Bush named North Korea as part of the Axes of Evil and the US State Department condemned the country’s human rights record.

“Now is a pivotal time to pray” said Thomas, adding there was now “a chink in that wall” after decades of isolation. “We are able to see something of the horrors that are taking place in the country, especially against Christians…We urge all Christians to take to heart the injunction in Hebrews 13.3 to ‘remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering’.’…[Go To Full Story]