South Korean churches voice concern for North Korean Christians as they observed the centennial anniversary for Korea’s first mass spiritual revival, amidst circulating reports of torture, imprisonment and execution of Christians.
15,000 people gathered for the prayer-fasting rally staged at the Seoul Olympic Gymnastic Stadium to commemorate the 1907 revival that had started in the now-North Korean capitol, Pyongyang.
“The contrast between the spiritual climate in North Korea today and one hundred years ago could not be starker,” said Elizabeth Batha, international advocate for UK-based charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide, at the stadium on Monday.
“That Pyongyang has moved from being a city known throughout the Christian world as ‘the Jerusalem of the East’ to now being the capital of probably the most brutal suppressor of Christianity is chilling.”
Before the Communist-takeover of North Korea in 1945, the Korean peninsula once boasted 13 per cent Christians with most residing in the northern city of Pyongyang.
It is not clear how many Christians reside in the ‘hermit-kingdom’ though North Korean officials claim 2,000 to 4,000 Roman Catholics.
Protestant Christians tend to be looked upon by officials as having affiliations with western-nations, and therefore subject to arrest for contact with the outside, which remains illegal.
Reports of torture, imprisonment and execution of Christians in the North’s notorious political prison camps continue to surface from defectors, however. Defectors also claim that police arresting individuals possessing Bibles is common.
North Korean officials continue to maintain that citizens enjoy religious freedom, citing the presence of a Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox church in Pyongyang.
Religious liberties advocates, however, claim the three churches are manned by actors and open to foreign observers only.
The executive secretary for the Christian Council of Korea, Rev. Choi Hee Boum, called for “2007 as a Year of Pray for North Korea” and for the international Christian community to pray for the North.
“As we mark this centenary day of the outbreak of the 1907 Pyongyang Great Revival, we desire to see love, freedom and peace restored in Korea,” Rev. Choi said