Last week, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence criticized North Korea’s poor record on religious freedom. He called its treatment of people of faith worse than China’s.
In his remarks, Mr. Pence said the U.S. would “stand for the freedom of religion” on the Korean peninsula. It comes at a sensitive time as Washington and Pyongyang try to get nuclear talks going again.
It’s one of many topics that remain on the radar. The State Department’s 2018 religious freedom report, released last month, noted North Korea’s constitution “provides for freedom of religious belief.”
The pressure on North Korean Christians
According to religious rights watchdog groups, North Korea remains one of the most restrictive nations in the world. For 17 years, the reclusive country tops the Open Doors’ World Watch List, a ranking of the top 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution.
According to their sources, since the beginning of the year, it’s gotten worse. The government’s tightened border control, added harsher punishment for those repatriated from China, and increased the crackdown on Christians, in general.
Responding to Mr. Pence’s observations, Eric Foley, CEO at Voice of the Martyrs Korea, agrees. “The comparison between the situation with North Korean Christians, and Christians in any other country–arguably, North Korean Christians have faced the full onslaught of what is pretty well demonstrated to be some of the worst persecution in human history.”
However, he noted a couple of things on the issue of religious freedom. First, “It’s important for us to remember as Christians, that Christ did not die for the freedom of religion. Christ died for freedom in Christ. That’s something that no government can grant, and no government can take away.” Second, don’t position martyrs as victims. “Our organization, VOM, doesn’t stand for Victims Of Murder; it stands for Voice Of The Martyrs. Martyrs are people who have found that Christ is sufficient. That’s the message that I learned from the very first underground North Korean Christian I ever met 18 years ago.”
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SOURCE: Mission Network News, R.B. Klama