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ANS – Churches and Christians around the world are being urged to remember the suffering people of North Korea during the Week of Prayer for North Korea running from 19 – 25 September, 2005.

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

Thomas says that 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.

“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 Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel’s time,” Thomas said in an e-mail to ASSIST News Service (ANS).

Thomas continued: “Very harsh penalties are meted out against those found to have adopted or shared the Christian faith. Punishments include execution or imprisonment in one of the brutal prison camps run by the regime to 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.

“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.

He added: “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.”

CSW is urging all Christians to pray for North Korea during the Week of Prayer.

“We know of no country in which the state repression of Christianity is so thorough and violent,” says Thomas.

“For decades the desperate need of the North Korean people has remained hidden and forgotten due to the isolation and severe repression against those who might speak out. However, now there is a chink in that wall and we are able to see something of the horrors that are taking place in the country, especially against Christians, and the wholesale repression of the freedom to hear the Gospel.

“We therefore strongly urge the Church to fervently pray until we see the forced imposition of idolatry and the violent suppression of faith fall, and the walls of darkness and repression crumble. Now is a pivotal time to pray and 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.’ ”

Although North Korea forbids its citizens to leave the country without permission and punishes those who do, significant numbers have fled over the border into China , which they consider a comparatively free and prosperous country, Thomas said.

“However, even there, they face grave danger, exploitation, bride-selling and, if caught, repatriation to brutal treatment in North Korea . Those repatriated are cross-examined about whether they have come into contact with Christians or become Christians. Those discovered to have done so are singled out for the harshest punishment, including execution or imprisonment.”