Christians may be subject to increasing statist pressure, hatred, and persecution in the United States, but farther afield, the situation is far more dire.
The U.S. State Department has released its annual International Religious Freedom Report, detailing the persecution of the faithful overseas.
Among the brutalities and barbarism exacted on Christians across the globe, some of the worst indignities have been perpetuated by the communist regime in North Korea.
The State Department’s 2022 IRF report corroborates the claims made by the non-denominational charitable organization Open Doors, which ranks North Korea as No. 1 in the world for its persecution of Christians and stresses that the communist nation is committed to the “highest levels of persecution ever seen.”
“North Korea remains a brutally hostile place for Christians to live. If discovered by the authorities, believers are either sent to labour camps as political prisoners where the conditions are atrocious, or killed on the spot – and their families will share their fate as well,” stated Open Doors. “Christians have absolutely no freedom. It is almost impossible for believers to gather or meet to worship.”
The State Department noted that North Korean officials currently have roughly 70,000 citizens in prison for being Christian — out of a Christian population of between 200,000 and 400,000, according to a United Nations estimate.
Victims are rounded up for possessing religious items, sharing religious beliefs, and/or for participating in religious practice.
An Open Doors 2023 report noted that North Korea’s new “Anti-reactionary thought law” makes it clear that “being a Christian and/or possessing a Bible is a serious crime and will be severely punished.”
The regime does not just punish the lone individual found with a Bible in his possession, but three generations of that person’s immediate family.
The State Department detailed one case in 2009 where an entire family, including a 2-year-old child, were given life sentences in political prison camps “based on their religious practices and possession of a Bible.”
Life imprisonment is a relatively lighter sentence given how those possessing Bibles have been punished in the past.
The report indicates that in one case, the communists captured a Korean Workers’ Party member who had a Bible, then executed him at Hyesan Airfield before an audience of 3,000 people.
The North Korean Religious Freedom Database, which tracks the various victims of the communist regime’s clampdown on Christians, notes that a mother in her thirties was similarly gunned down at Hyesan Airfield for having possessed a Bible. Since her husband was similarly detained, their two children became homeless and died.
North Koreans are slaughtered for simply looking at a Bible.
One male victim in his 40s was executed in 2008 after it was revealed he had read the Bible while in the Chongori concentration camp.
In 1,411 similar cases where victims were punished for their faith, 126 were butchered; 94 disappeared; 79 were maimed; 53 were forcibly relocated; 826 were detained; 147 were immobilized; and 86 were persecuted with other methods of punishment.
Despite the unimaginable cruelty inflicted upon them, the report referenced remarkable instances of Christians’ fortitude.
One witness indicated that “guards beat a Christian man who had been praying to the brink of death, leaving him bleeding on the ground. The man, however, continued to pray daily, even as guards beat him with a club and kicked him with their boots on.”
Whereas the FBI appears to presently regard only particular Christian sect as ideologically dangerous, the State Department indicated that the North Korean regime regards Christians altogether as the “most dangerous political class of people.”
North Korean Christians looking to escape communist persecution are best off defecting to South Korea, as they have little hope of finding refuge in the neighboring country of China.
China, North Korea’s powerful neighbor and close ally, similarly persecutes its Christian population, going so far as to hunt Chinese Christians internationally.
Extra to the routine harassment, torture, detentions, church demolitions, forced disappearances, and executions Christians are subjected to inside China’s borders, the State Department IFR report noted the Chinese communist regime has taken additional measures in recent years to censor Christian messaging; treat religious material on the internet “on par with pornography, drug dealing and citing rebellion”; raid, shut down, and fine religious schools; and restrict the circulation of Bibles.
Open Doors rates Christian persecution in China as “very high.”
Pew Research reported in 2020 that Christians were the most harassed group in the world, with harassment defined as attacks ranging from “verbal abuse to physical violence and killings,” motivated by the victims’ religiosity. This was found to be the case in 145 out of 198 countries.
The persecution of Christians has been steadily increasing for well over a decade.
As of January 2023, 360 million Christians reportedly lived in nations with high levels of persecution or discrimination.
Christianity Today reported that over 5,600 Christians were killed for their faith last year. Over 2,100 churches were attacked or closed, with over 71 torched in Canada alone. More than 124,000 Christians were reportedly forced from their homes because of their faith, and another 15,000 became refugees.
According to Open Doors, the ten worst countries with the highest levels of Christian persecution are: 1) North Korea; 2) Somalia; 3) Yemen; 4) Eritrea; 5) Libya; 6) Nigeria; 7) Pakistan; 8) Iran; 9) Afghanistan; and 10) Sudan.
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