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South Korea Prays For North Amid Reports Of Executions

By Stefan J. Bos,

1/15/07 North & South Korea (BosNewsLife) The prayer initiative was to be announced before 20,000 people at the Seoul Olympic Stadium, ending a week-long conference commemorating the 100th anniversary of a Christian revival in what is now Communist-run North Korea .

“On this, the centenary day of the outbreak of the revival in Pyongyang , we call for a Year of Prayer for North Korea in 2007,” said the declaration, obtained by BosNewsLife. “We recollect how, one hundred years ago, North Korea was mightily touched and transformed by God and how the Gospel flourished so greatly in Pyongyang that it was called the Jerusalem of the East.”

They also proclaimed the week of June 19-25, when the Korean War broke out, “an annual Global Week of Prayer for North Korea ,” and launched what is known as the ‘Transform Korea movement’, aimed at spreading the Gospel. In the Netherlands , Christian rights group Open Doors said it would also organize a February 12-18 week of prayer.

Officials supporting the prayer declaration included speakers David Yonggi Cho, leader of the 800-thousand strong Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul , the world’s largest congregation, and Loren Cunningham, founder of the worldwide evangelical movement Youth With A Mission.

“SPIRITUAL DARKNESS”

They said prayer was urgently needed “as North Korea is in great spiritual darkness and crisis” and “enforced statewide idolatry,” of leader Kim Jong II.

The leaders said they were “grieved” by a “ruthless ban on the Gospel and violent punishment of our Christian brothers and sisters.”

It came as US-based World Bible Translation Center (WBTC) said it continues to investigate the execution of a North Korean evangelist for apparently possessing and distributing WBTC’s Easy-to-Read Version Korean New Testaments. Officials told BosNewsLife that “details are sketchy regarding the nature and circumstances of the evangelist’s death.” Officials declined to give the man’s name for security reasons.

WBTC Vice President for Publishing and Distribution, John Andersen, said it was ,”the first confirmed death of a Christian martyr who was sharing the Gospel using WBTC’s Scripture texts.” He added that, “throughout the history of this ministry, others have been severely beaten and some believers harassed, but this is the first confirmed death.”

He said his organization was “saddened and humbled that God has chosen us to bear this grief.” Investigators added there are similar reports of persecution of Christians in North Korea . Those who possess or distribute the Bible are reportedly subject to a minimum sentence of 13 years of imprisonment and hard labor or a maximum sentence of death.

200,000 SLAVES

There are an estimated 200,000 people locked up in labor camps, many of them Christians as Christianity, and even the word ‘God’ has been banned in the country, observers said. Thousands of people, including Christians, are believed to have died in these camps in recent years.

In their declaration at the conference in Seoul , church and mission leaders said that in “light of the grave and precarious situation in North Korea today, we call on Christians around the world to urgently pray for an end to the darkness and suffering.” They stressed it was important to, “pray for the glory, light and love of God to break out once again in Pyongyang and throughout the nation.”

The Christian officials also urged prayer for the “health and welfare of the North Korean people inside and outside their nation and for an end to the hunger and hardship they are enduring.” From Saturday afternoon, January 13, till the early hours of Sunday, January 14, thousands of conference participants already held 12 hours of fasting and prayer for North Korea .

Since the conference began last Sunday, January 7, they also discussed themes aimed at strengthening Korean churches and individual believers, including ‘Repentance and Healing’, ‘Unity and Recovery’, ‘Revival and Transformation’, ‘Reconciliation and Unification’ and Harvest and Mission.’ Organizers also launched special website www.prayfornorthkorea.org