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North Korea is most oppressive nation

The Church of England Newspaper (01/06/06)

By Nick Weinberg

North Korea heads the list of the most oppressive places on earth for religious believers according to a recent survey.

The survey commissioned by Open Doors, a Christian persecution watchdog, covers various aspects of religious freedoms differentiating between the legal official status of Christians.

Estimates suggest that in excess of 100,000 Christians could be detained in labour camps in North Korea where they face brutal treatment and execution.

Autonomous religious activities are absent from North Korea while government-sponsored religious groups exist to provide the illusion of religious freedom. In a report in 2005, the US Department of State noted that religious prisoners, especially Christians, were treated worse than other inmates.

A woman in her 20s was executed last November by firing squad after being caught with a Bible and five Christian leaders were allegedly run over by a steamroller before a crowd of spectators.

Gail Bielitz, leader of Fellowship of the Woodlands Persecuted Church Ministry Team, said: “ North Korea has been number one for three years at the top of the Open Doors world watch list for persecuted Christians.”

The totalitarian dictatorship still suffers from chronic food shortages and continued shortage of fertiliser and parts. The maintenance of the fifth largest army in the world does nothing to help the crippled economy, with much-needed funds being ploughed into the military machine.

Bielitz added: “The famine (in 1995) had a significant impact on North Korean society. The state couldn’t take care of its people any more. The food distribution system was dismantled so an underground market arose and the government didn’t take action against it.”