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A lonely Christmas for Christians in North Korea

ICC Note:

A more intimate look at the face of Christmas for our brothers and sisters in North Korea. As we wind down and clean up from our own celebrations, may we give thanks for our liberty and pray for the breaking of the walls that come against the church around the world.


12/24/07 North Korea (ChristianToday) The people of Israel had to remain in the desert for 40 years when they made a golden calf, but we … we have been suffering for more than 50 years now. When will it be enough, Lord? When may we again open the churches of our forebears?” The talking stops. The sound of sobbing men fills the small, bare living room.

There are no fairy lights, no Christmas dinner, or, any kind of carol service for the followers of Jesus Christ in North Korea at Christmas. In fact, the scarcity of any kind of electrical light, food or joy leaves vast swathes of this country shrouded in darkness, hunger and gloom most days of the year. Christmas day in North Korea is like any other.

The only official births celebrated nationally are that of deceased former leader, Kim Il-sung, and the current leader, his son Kim Jong-il. Sculptures and portraits of Kim Il-sung who ruled over North Korea from 1948 until his death in 1972, are on display everywhere, pervading offices, factories, homes and streets. North Koreans and tourists alike are expected to bow to these idols.

Simon describes how some Christians in North Korea try and celebrate Christmas in the same way they try to commemorate Sunday. “For example, a Christian will sit on a park bench. Another Christian will come and sit beside him. Sometimes it is dangerous even to speak to one another, but just to know they are both Christians is enough. If no one is around, they may be able to share a memorised Bible verse or prayer request.

Brother Simon estimates there are at least 200,000 and maybe even as many as half a million underground Christians. At least 70,000 of these Christians are imprisoned for their faith in political prison camps, which few survive.

Despite all this, the Church is growing. This is mainly due to refugees who come to faith in China and then return. One such woman is Dae. She was nineteen when she left her country to escape hunger and misery. Sadly, in China like many North Korean women she was sexually abused by various men and ended up a physical and psychological wreck, until a Chinese Christian woman started to take care of her. As Dae listened to her, she slowly opened up to God’s Word and was physically and spiritually healed as she came to faith.

Equally distressing is the story of 11 year-old Jong Cheol. After finding faith in China, Jong and his friends were arrested by the Chinese police and mercilessly sent back to North Korea. After brutal treatment by the Korean authorities Jong was executed, simply for being a Christian.

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