North Korea has threatened a Christian ministry to stop sending Gospel messages to the country through fax, saying the consequence will be “very bad,” amid testing of seven missiles on U.S. Independence Day.
Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) confirmed that an anonymous fax apparently from the North Korean embassy for Finland on 5 June promises workers affiliated with VOM that “something very bad will happen to you” if VOM continues a special project to share the Gospel.
VOM said during the past year it had collected many fax numbers from inside North Korea, and have been sending weekly faxes containing Christian messages and Scripture passages on love and forgiveness to each of the fax numbers.
“This fax is good news,” said Todd Nettleton, VOM’s director of Media Development and the author of a book on the history of Christianity in North Korea.
“This means that the faxes are getting through, and they are being read. It is highly unlikely that this type of response would have been made from an embassy without some approval from Pyongyang.”
Part of the message VOM has been sending to North Korea said:
“The Christian teaching is clear. Communists are men and Christ loves them. So does every man who has the mind of Christ. We love the sinner even though we hate the sin. Christ, the Incarnate Love, wants all men to come to Him, including the Communists.”
“There are Christians in Communist prisons with fifty pounds of chains on their feet, tortured with redhot iron pokers, in whose throats spoonfuls of salt had been forced, being kept afterward without water, starving, whipped, suffering from cold - and praying with fervor for the Communists. This is humanly inexplicable! It is the love of Christ, which was poured out in our hearts.”
And the letter starts with a line from Song of Solomon 8:6-7 showing Christ’s love toward man, it reads: “Love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave... Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it.”
The most recent fax sent to North Korean businesses and government offices included stories of Christians loving Communists - even the Communists who abused or tortured them. It was taken from the writings of Richard Wurmbrand, VOM’s founder who was held for 14 years in communist prisons in Romania.
Apparently, the project has touched a nerve at the highest levels of North Korea’s repressive government, VOM stated in a public statement made in its Web site.
“We know who you are,” begins a fax, written in Korean but without a signature. “We warn you that if you send this kind of dirty fax again something very bad will happen to you. Don’t do something you will regret.”
The ministry has been active in North Korea for decades, including launching tens of thousands of “Scripture Balloons,” helium filled balloons that are printed with Scripture passages and other gospel messages.
It said, the threatening fax came to a VOM-affiliated office just days before two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, were sentenced to 12 years hard labor for allegedly crossing the border into North Korea. It came just one day after the latest round of faxes sent by VOM to North Korean fax numbers.
In an apparent show of its power and strength, defying the United States on Independence Day, North Korea fired seven missiles on 4 July into the sea off its east coast.
The test-firings came two days after North Korea, which is being squeezed by the U.S. government and other countries for its recent nuclear test, fired four short-range missiles into the sea.
North Korea is ranked number one for seven years in a row in the annual Open Doors Watch List 2009 as the country that has the worst persecution of Christians. If the regime discovers a person is a Christian, the believer can be thrown into a labor camp, tortured, or even publicly executed to dissuade others from following the faith.
It is believed that tens of thousands of Christians are currently suffering in North Korean prison camps, according to Open Doors. The regime is suspected of detaining more political and religious prisoners than any other country in the world.
Instead of a globally recognized religion, citizens of the reclusive country are forced to worship a cult-like version of the trinity consisting of the deceased dictator Kim Il Sung (father), current dictator Kim Jong Il (son) and the Juche ideology.
All religions other than the worship of the North Korean dictators are forbidden. Christianity, in particular, is seen as the greatest threat to the state and to Kim’s power and is harshly punished.
Nettleton said, “North Korea presents some great challenges, but the Good News of Jesus’ love cannot be stopped.”
“We simply have to find more creative ways to deliver that message, and The Voice of the Martyrs is committed to doing that.”