A second summit between President Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in Vietnam came to an abrupt halt on Thursday 28 February. Many things remain uncertain - but, like last time, North Korea’s horrendous human rights abuses seem to have been left off the agenda.
Last year’s summit between Kim Jong-un and President Trump in Singapore did little to raise the atrocious human rights abuses of North Korea. Though President Trump declared that he raised it in private, the treatment of North Korea’s 25 million citizens was left out of the official talks. It is possible that President Trump will again raise human rights in private to please evangelical voters in the USA. But whether this is an earnest discussion or a passing remark will likely never been known.
Sadly Trump’s discussion of human rights at the Singapore summit last June has had no impact for the estimated 200,000-400,000 Christians North Korea. Local sources have told Open Doors that there are many signs that persecution is getting worse. Namely an increased number of arrests and abductions of South Korean and Chinese Korean missionaries in China, strengthened border control with harsher punishment for North Korean citizens who are repatriated from China, and a crackdown on all channels spreading the Christian faith.
North Korea is number one on the Open Doors World Watch List - it has been number one since 2002. If Christians are discovered, they are deported to labour camps as political criminals or killed on the spot; their families share their fate. With an estimated 50,000 - 70,000 Christians held in prison camps simply because of their Christians faith, Open Doors’ CEO, Henrietta Blyth, has called for a discussion into the human rights record of North Korea at the summit in Vietnam: "The conditions in which Christians in North Korea are forced to live are appalling and inexcusable. Human rights abuses must be raised and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights upheld.
"We are praying that this summit brings about lasting change in North Korea, not only for Christians who have no freedom of belief but also for all the citizens of North Korea who are mistreated, malnourished and at the mercy of a dictator."
Regardless of the outcome of this Trump-Kim summit, let’s praise God that he is ultimately in control. Daniel 2:20 says, "Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever, for wisdom and might are his. He changes the times and the seasons. He removes kings, and sets up kings. He gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding." Let’s pray that God will give His wisdom, understanding and compassion to all the leaders and advisors who were involved in the Vietnam summit.
On top of this increased pressure on Christians, January has also seen food rations cut in half by the government after Pyongyang informed the UN that it is facing a food shortfall. Daily rations plummeted from 550 to 300 grams per person per day. Local sources in North Korea have confirmed to Open Doors that there has been much less food.
Every aspect of life for North Korean citizens is controlled by the state. All resources, including food, are owned and distributed by the government. Wealthy North Koreans may be able to supplement their meals with food from the black market, but for the average citizen reduced rations means going hungry or cooking grass soup.
Thanks to the generosity of Open Doors’ supporters, our underground workers are able to smuggle food to keep 60,000 North Korean Christians alive each month. Could you help meet the shortfall and keep a North Korea Christian nourished amid reduced rations? Every £15 could provide a monthly relief pack to help a North Korean believer survive.
'GOD OPENS DOORS THROUGH OUR PRAYERS'
With little hope that this Trump-Kim summit will bring about lasting change for Christians in North Korea, Open Doors is committed to strengthening them from afar. Last year we began broadcasting encouraging messages from Open Doors supporters around the world to North Korean believers over the radio. Several Christian programmes are broadcast throughout the week, all of them in the middle of the night, because that is the safest time for North Koreans to listen to the radio.
The radio programmes – as well as the Bibles and other Christian materials that we secretly distribute – fill an important gap for Christians unable to meet together for teaching and encouragement.
This vital work has been very much appreciated by our brothers and sisters. One Christian told us how the messages had encouraged them: "A message came from Revelation 3:7-13 and it was read after we sang the hymn ‘I’m rejoicing night and day’. The message encouraged us to keep our faith, despite the daily suffering and persecution we go through, by holding on to God’s promises and spiritual power. God opens doors through our prayers. Our prayers will chase the darkness away, just like the morning dawn chases away the night.
"We pray that God will anoint all those believers who have sent us a message of encouragement. We pray that the Lord will bless all fellow Christians in the world this year. Thank you for your radio programmes. Sometimes the signal is interrupted, but usually, we are able to listen to the programmes without a problem."
Though we cannot be with our North Korean brothers and sisters in person, we can stand with them in prayer.
- That God would work through the Trump-Kim summit to strengthen the North Korean church
- That the radio programmes will help underground Christians to grow spiritually and encourage them in walk with Jesus
- Ask God whether he can use you to encourage a North Korean Christian with vital support.