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ICC Note: North Korea has been in the media spotlight after it recently test-fired several missiles. The Open Doors ministry has seized this opportunity to bring to light the extreme human rights violations in this country. The hope is that the international attention on North Korea will bring about major reforms to human rights and religious freedom violations.

Interview: Open Doors USA President, CEO on North Korea

By Michelle Vu

Christian Post Reporter

The Christian Post (7/18/06) – The President/CEO of Open Doors USA, Dr. Carl A. Moeller, spoke to The Christian Post last Thursday about the importance of exposing the grave human rights violations in the reclusive country and about Rick Warren’s 2007 trip to North Korea to preach to 15,000 Christians. Open Doors is an international Christian ministry serving the persecuted church and Christians.

CP: Closely following North Korea ’s recent missile test-firings, Open Doors released a written response calling attention to human rights and religious freedom violations. Why did Open Doors choose to bring up this issue when the world was concerned about nuclear warfare?

Moeller: One of the greatest challenges we face with any country we deal with is that we have differing agendas at times from the military and diplomatic response and the response we have as human beings to the plight of the North Korean people.

North Korea is a terrible regime. The dictatorship there is just absolutely on every measure a pariah with a horrible human rights record. I think it is important that we never separate the discussions; we can’t deal with the political, military, or diplomatic dimension of North Korea without dealing with the human rights abuse that is going on in that country.

CP: What opportunities do you see for human rights, religious freedom groups with the extensive media coverage and political focus on North Korea ?

Moeller: I think there is a great opportunity. Whenever the world’s attention, however brief it might be, is focus on some of the areas that are often ignored because they are confusing, difficult, or hard to understand, it helps bring to light other issues. And when a country like North Korea is disturbing the stability of the world, the world’s attention helps to bring to light many, many other things that are going on.

We have seen an upspring of people who are interested in the human rights issue in North Korea even though the situation is primarily military and diplomatic. That extra light shined on North Korea will help us get the message out that there are millions of people starving in North Korea and that there are maybe hundreds of thousands, maybe even more Christians suffering for their faith in the North.

CP: You previously held the position of Pastor in Membership at Saddleback Church . What was your reaction when you heard that Rick Warren was invited to speak to 15,000 North Koreans next year?

Moeller: I am also a member of Saddleback Church and I continue to worship there, and as it goes, Rick Warren is my pastor. In the deepest sense of the term, I am amazed that God has opened up this opportunity for Rick Warren. However, I think, and Rick is well aware that this is not a simple invitation to go preach at another stadium somewhere. This is something on many levels an act not only of spiritual obedience but of opportunity on the political side.

I don’t believe on a simple analysis that Rick Warren’s message to the North Korean is going to be the single event that changes the way Christians are treated in North Korea . In fact, in some ways, I feel that it might bring additional persecution on Christians and we have to be aware, and Rick is aware, of the reality of Christians in North Korea . They are virtually an invisible quantity, although they do exist and they are growing quite rapidly.

The Christian community, if it is able to hear at all Rick’s message, will be completely clandestine. If they are in any way labeled or identified through this they will suffer. But I think the Christians there are ready and understand the nature of what the Gospel is. It requires a full commitment and all brothers and sisters in North Korea understand that quite well.

On the other hand, the criticism is Rick’s going to North Korea will be a political tool in the hands of Kim Jung-Il to try to gain some kind of world credibility and it may produce some suffering for local Christians if they in any way try to identify themselves as Christians during that time.

That said however, I think it is also vital to realize that this is the Gospel we are talking about here. This is the Word of God going out in a place where it has not been spoken publicly like this for decades. Much the same ways, in the early 80s, Billy Graham went to the Soviet Union amid much criticism from American evangelicals I might add. He was able to be the leading edge of an opening that within a decade brought a significant amount of openness within the Soviet Union and ultimately its collapse.

I know there is a connection between those things and the spiritual component of the Gospel being preached openly. I believe that will also happen in North Korea and we are praying for that.

CP: Do you have anything you would like to add?

Moeller: I think the world is sorely in need of visionaries who are willing to go to places like North Korea , no matter what the cost, and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Today’s world is in desperate need of the next generation of apostles like the first century who were unafraid and did not recognize any border or boundaries or doors close. Instead they realize that, as our names says, all doors are open to the proclaiming of the Gospel…[Go To Full Story]