As part of Family Research Council's growing engagement on international religious freedom, each month we are taking a focused look at one particular country, bearing witness to the abuses our Christian sisters and brothers are enduring. While we pray for our own country, we also pray for countries where religious freedom does not exist and persecution against believers continues unabated.
In September, our international religious freedom focus is on North Korea.
When Ji Hyeona was growing up in North Korea, the word "faith" meant being loyal to the Kim family dictators.
Religious freedom doesn't exist in North Korea and adhering to any religion is extremely dangerous, as Ji found out for herself. One day, she was taken to the local Ministry of State Security without warning. There, she was beaten and tortured, not knowing why she was being singled out for such treatment.
Then, the authorities placed Ji's Bible on the desk in front of her. It was a Bible her mother had brought back to North Korea after a trip to China, and Ji had begun to read it. Sadly, her own friend had reported her to the government for possessing a Bible.
At the time, Ji was able to talk her way out of further punishment, but she was informed she would not be forgiven if this happened again.
And that was not Ji's last encounter with North Korean authorities. She managed the difficult escape from North Korea four times -- and was forcibly repatriated back to North Korea by Chinese authorities three times. Forced labor in prison camps awaits those who dare leave the hermit kingdom.
Twice in China, Ji was forced into prostitution, and during one repatriation to North Korea, she returned pregnant. Because so-called "mixed-race" babies are not recognized in North Korea, repatriated defectors who return pregnant endure brutal and heartbreaking forced abortions. Ji was no exception.
Ji continues to tell her story despite how painful it is. Why? She says, "While people are dying and the rest of the world watches that... if they maintain their silence despite knowing what is going on, I don't think that's right."
For nearly two decades, Open Doors' World Watch List has continuously designated North Korea as the #1 worst persecutor of Christians in the world. The horrifying stories told by escapees like Ji describe unimaginable cruelties under the brutal Kim family's authority.
The 2020 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) report explains, "The (North Korean) government treats religion as a threat...Christians are especially vulnerable because the government views them as susceptible to foreign influence. ... Anyone caught practicing religion or even suspected of harboring religious views in private is subject to severe punishment, including arrest, torture, imprisonment, and execution."
We don't know exactly how many Christians like Ji are suffering inside North Korea, but there are many. Please join us as we pray for them -- for protection, guidance, and deliverance from their cruel persecutors.
Remember the Persecuted
Religious liberty is the freedom to hold beliefs of one’s choice and to live according to those beliefs. While it was foundational to the formation of the United States of America, religious freedom is not merely an American right, but an inherent human right.
Yet the human race currently faces unprecedented religious persecution from governmental and social forces worldwide. In 2016, one or more religious groups were harassed in 187 countries around the world.
Over the last decade, Christians have been harassed in more countries, including the United States, than any other religious group. We do indeed face a worldwide crisis of religious liberty.
We must increase awareness of the expanding threat to religious freedom around the world and the persecution that many Christians are facing. As we grow awareness of this problem we must also increase engagement that will bring tangible hope and help to the persecuted.
For More Information
- "The Crisis of Christian Persecution in Nigeria" - FRC Issue Analysis
- "Religious Freedom in China" - FRC Issue Analysis
- "Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Anti-Conversion Laws" - FRC Publication
- "Pakistan's Religious Discrimination Harms Young Girls the Most" - FRC Op-Ed
- "West Africa: Praying for a Miracle" - FRC Op-Ed
- "Burma’s Relentless Abuse of Christians and Rohingya Muslims" - FRC Blog
- "Make an atrocity determination about China's treatment of Uighurs" - FRC Op-Ed
- "Hong Kong freedom lovers deserve global support against Chinese Communist Party's new Red Terror" - FRC Op-Ed