Christian Orphans in North Korea Tortured for Their Faith in Jesus Christ

A girl dressed in a Hanbok, a Korean traditional costume, stands in front of a barbed-wire fence, as her parents prepare for a memorial service for North Korean family members, near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, February 19, 2015, on the occasion of Seolnal, the Korean Lunar New Year’s day. Millions of South Koreans traveled to their hometowns during the three-day holiday which started last Wednesday. Seolnal is one of the traditional holidays when most Koreans visit their hometowns to be united with their families and hold memorial services for their deceased ancestors.

Several human rights advocates, including a North Korean defector who wore sunglasses to conceal her identity, told harrowing accounts of orphaned children in North Korea and refugees living in China to draw attention to their plight during a panel held at Georgetown University on Wednesday.

The event was part of the week-long North Korean Freedom Week sponsored by the North Korean Freedom Coalition, hosted by the Isabella Foundation and Georgetown’s Truth and Human Rights in North Korea.

Lim Hye-Jin of the New Korea Women’s Union recounted through a translator one such story about the North Korean dictatorship’s treatment of 17 North Korean orphans who decided to defect and made their home under a bridge in China. They were arrested and detained at a detention center in China and forcibly repatriated to North Korea. Three of the 17 were discovered to be Christians and were sent to a political prison camp.

“Under North Korean law, children under the age of 18 should not be sent to a political prison camp. But in this case, they were found to be Christians and had been in a church, [so] they were separated from their group” where they were “tortured harshly” while the other orphans were sent to a reeducation camp with other children, Lim said.

The North Korean security agents found out that they were Christians because they discovered calluses on their knees, as they had been praying for a long time for God to help them, Lim said.

The other 14 orphans were told that the three Christian orphans who had been separated from the group had been sent back to an orphanage in North Korea. But those children told Lim that if that was so, they knew that they would try to escape because they were “100 percent sure” they would starve to death if they had stayed in the orphanage. They at least had a chance at survival begging in the streets.

Stories like these continue to happen today, Lim added, concluding her remarks by asking people to pray for North Koreans.

(Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)Christians pray for starving North Koreans during a prayer session in Seoul March 1, 2012. About 300 South Korean Christians also asked China not to send North Koreans detained in China back to the North, saying the North Koreans might be executed after their repatriation.

Suzanne Scholte, founder and president of the Defense Forum Foundation, who co-hosted the panel, noted that North Korean refugees are unlike any others worldwide because they have a place to go for immediate resettlement as they are citizens of South Korea under the South Korean Constitution.

“There’s no reason for China to continue this brutal inhumane policy of how they deal with the North Korean refugees and the orphans,” Scholte added, noting that the crisis could be solved overnight if the Chinese government would abide by its international treaty obligations.

The severe persecution of Christians in North Korea isn’t new. Open Door USA consistently ranks the totalitarian nation as the most oppressive place in the world for Christians.

The Christian Post asked the panel why the North Korean regime considers Christianity particularly threatening so as to even torture children.

“The Kim regime established itself using some of the doctrine of the Christian faith,” Scholte explained, adding that Kim Il Sung, the first of the Kim dynasty, recognized the power of the faith since many of those who stood up to Japanese oppressors were Christians and were instrumental in the Korean independence movement even though they were a small minority of the population.

But Kim Il Sung “perverted it for his own purposes, setting himself up as God,” she said, appropriating his son as the Christ figure and “Juche,” which means “self-reliance,” for the Holy Spirit. The regime has a creed of its own which is patterned after the Apostles Creed, which declares religious allegiance to the dictatorship.

“So if you’re a Christian and you believe in God [and not the dictator] that’s a direct threat to the regime,” she said.

Source: Christian Post

How do Christians respond to persecution?

 

A report looking into the ways Christians respond to persecution has found that their “survival strategies” require a lot of “creativity, determination and courage”, while violence is seldom used.

“Christians are the most widely targeted religious community, suffering terrible persecution globally,” according to the University of Notre Dame’s report, In Response to Persecution, which says that Christians tend to choose “a creative pragmatism dominated by short-term efforts to provide security, build strength through social ties”.

At the release of the report, Pakistani Archbishop Sebastian Shaw highlighted Pakistan’s beleaguered Christian minority, encouraging them not to give up as “they have made vital contributions to the country’s history and must not refrain from professing their faith in the midst of the current persecution”. Christians played an important role in building and unifying the country when it was founded in 1947, the Archbishop said, and many of the current leaders have come through the social institutions they helped to establish.

Meanwhile, in an article for The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Mindy Belz writes of the many ways in which Christians have responded to persecution by Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria.

Iraqi Christians ask the international community for help. In the absence of outside support, some of them have decided to take up arms themselves.

Many have fled from their homes and communities, while others have remained. Those fleeing hoped to find shelter outside of IS-controlled areas; the churches of Iraqi Kurdistan, for instance, have taken in the homeless and collected money to provide for them.

Iraqi Christians ask the international community for help. In the absence of outside support, some of them have decided to take up arms themselves.
The Church itself became “its own guarantor for safety, insofar as it was possible”, notes Belz. “The paralysis of coalition nations long engaged in Iraq stood in contrast to the flights of the threatened Christians, to their desperate efforts to care for one another.”

Sometimes Christians decide to actively oppose their oppressors. Christians in Iraq, for instance, after years of facing violence and “certain annihilation” by IS, and in the absence of any outside help or protection, decided to take up arms. Belz quotes Odisho Yousif, an Assyrian kidnapped by militants in 2006, when he explains: “It’s not acceptable to watch our lands taken by terrorist groups and expect Kurds to come to liberate them, and we just watch while Kurds fight. It’s our land and our people, so we have to be active”.

‘Not taken seriously’

Cheryl K. Chumley, writing for The Washington Times, notes that although Christianity has played a major role in the foundation of many modern societies, including the United States, it rarely seems to feature very prominently on the agenda of the US government or media.

How can a nation that has Christianity as its DNA not rally around those who are persecuted because they share that same DNA, she asks.

As World Watch Monitor reported earlier this month, the persecution of Christians is often “still not taken seriously”.

Canadian MP Candice Bergen wrote on her Facebook page: “More Christians die and suffer for their faith than any other religious group in the world. The elite, including liberal media, not only ignore this fact but most often are the ones who treat Christians with mocking, stereotyping and disdain. It’s a rare sight to ever see Hollywood portray a Christian in a positive manner, much less talk about the plight of Christians in places like the Middle East.”

 

Source: World Watch Monitor

Urgent #Prayer Conference Call scheduled for North Korea this evening, 27 April 2017

In recent weeks, tensions have heightened as North Korea defiantly carried out missile tests despite warnings from Western governments. This afternoon, (26 April) the entire U.S. Senate headed to the White House for a rare briefing ordered by President Trump on North Korea’s persistent saber-rattling.

Because of the urgency of the situation, we will again pray for this nation on tomorrow evening’s prayer conference call—Thursday, April 27, 2017. Not only will our prayer be directed for the North Korean persecuted church, but we will pray regarding the international situation between North Korea and the United States.

One of our brothers at Persecution Watch, has much knowledge of North Korea. He has provided background info with appropriate prayer points for tonight’s call. Please join us if you are so led by the Spirit.
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James tells us that the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. My brothers and sisters, I cannot underscore the urgency of prayer in this tense situation. The possibility of armed conflict between the United States and North Korea, could impact our brothers and sisters in North Korea. So please, consider praying with us on the call.

Your brother in Christ,

Blaine Scogin

pwprayercall@gmail.com

Serving Jesus as Prayer Director of Voice of the Persecuted and Persecution Watch.

Prayer Conference calls held weekly every Tues., Thur and Sat.

Call info (one hour, or longer as the Lord leads)

9 p.m. Eastern time

8 p.m. Central time

7 p.m. Mountain time

6 p.m. Pacific time

Call number: 712.775.7035

Access code: 281207#

Source: (Voice of the Persecuted)

DISPLACED IRAQI CHRISTIANS OPEN SWEET FACTORY IN ERBIL

 

Some of the workers at Erbil’s new sweet factory. Photo: World Watch Monitor, 2017

In his new factory, surrounded by sesame seeds, pistachios and sugar, Rabeea dips his spatula into a large vat of honey-coloured syrup. He’s checking its consistency to see if it’s ready for the next step in the production of traditional Iraqi sweets, like sorjuq or halqoum.

“We deliver our products to shops all over the country,” he says. “But most of the sweets go to Suleymaniyah, Zakho and Shaklawa [towns across north-eastern Iraq]. We even have requests from abroad, but for now, with the current situation in our country, that is impossible.”

Rabeea, 38, opened the factory in March to provide a living to families like his own, who sought refuge in Erbil in August 2014 when Islamic State forced many Christians to flee their towns in the Nineveh plains.

 

Although the Church in Erbil welcomed them as guests, they wanted to earn their own income and be less reliant on aid provided to internally displaced people.

Rabeea is a good choice to manage the factory – he ran a similar one in his home city of Qaraqosh, and his face still lights up when he talks about it, although he describes life in Iraq now as “very difficult”.

Christian charity Open Doors helped Rabeea set up his business, which is now flourishing, with plans to add to the current workforce of four other displaced Christians.

The factory is on the first floor of a rented building on the main street in Erbil’s Christian neighbourhood of Ankawa.

Pistachio sweets produced at the factory

“We produce all kinds of sweets that are common in our country, but for now we have a limited variety because we don’t have the machines. We could do more, but this is a good start,” Rabeea says.

Close to the big windows that fill one whole side of the room, three men wearing blue hygiene caps over their hair, work at a stainless steel table covered in flour. One takes out a slab of halqoum from a large metal baking sheet, puts it on the floured work surface and cuts it into quarters. He pushes each piece to the next man, who, using a long, curved knife, cuts the quarters into strips a few centimeters wide. The final man in the chain rolls the strips in flour and cuts them into cubes. The sweets are then ready to be packed in small plastic boxes.

The room also stores their raw ingredients: sacks of sugar piled high, buckets of walnuts and sesame seeds. There are enough ingredients to produce many sweets.

The finished products sit on a large table in the middle of the factory floor – hundreds of sesame and honey cookies. Another table is full of boxed sweets made with coconut, pistachios or almonds.

The worker who cut the halqoum into quarters says: “I am from Qaraqosh. I have been displaced since 6 August 2014 because of Islamic State. When I came here with my family, we had nothing. I am so happy with this work. I am thankful to the organisation that employed us.”

Like his colleagues in the factory, he is now able to provide an income for his family and to start saving money to one day restore their damaged house in Qaraqosh.

Rabeea hopes to return too; the machinery and tables in the factory could easily be moved to another location.

“One day we might be back in our places again; we can continue there,” he says.

Source: World Watch Monitor

Yemen aid summit seeks to pull nation from brink

By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Geneva

A quarter of Yemen’s population urgently needs help, the UN says

A pledging conference to raise funds for Yemen is taking place in Geneva on Tuesday, amidst what the UN describes as “the world’s largest humanitarian crisis”.

Before the conflict between the Saudi-led coalition, supporting Yemen’s government, and Houthi rebels began, Yemen was already the poorest country in the Middle East.

Now, after two years of civil war, the World Food Programme says the country is on the brink of famine.

The sheer scale of the deprivation is staggering: of Yemen’s 25.6 million people, almost 19 million are in urgent need of assistance, the UN says.

Almost seven million are “severely food insecure”, meaning they need food aid immediately. Two million children are acutely malnourished.

“The situation is nothing short of catastrophic,” says Robert Mardini, who is director of Middle East operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and has recently returned from Yemen.

“What everyone tells you is that life has become unbearable.”

Funding shortfall

But despite repeated warnings about a potential disaster in Yemen, the UN’s appeal for $2.1bn to bring relief is only 15% funded. Aid agencies say government ministers gathering in Geneva for the pledging conference must now commit.

“Yemen is a forgotten conflict,” says Caroline Anning of Save the Children.

She believes that the focus on Syria and Iraq is starving Yemen not just of funding, but of the diplomacy needed to try to bring the war to an end, and is hopeful the conference in Geneva may finally bring Yemen the attention it so desperately needs.

“Anything that puts Yemen on the map and gets people thinking about not letting this conflict grind on is positive.”

‘Total collapse’

If governments do pledge more money for Yemen, the challenges for aid agencies will remain immense.

Save the Children would like funding specifically for education, pointing out that over two million children are not able to go to school because of the conflict.

The ICRC, which has been trying to support hospitals in Yemen, would like more attention to health care, which is said to be on the verge of total collapse.

The UN says the situation in Yemen is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world

Less than half Yemen’s hospitals are functioning at all, and those that are face daily shortages of staff, medicines, and electricity.

But even with extra funding in place, there will be huge difficulties delivering aid. The key port of Hudaydah, which aid agencies describe as “a lifeline” for Yemen, is now virtually closed, due to a partial blockade by coalition forces, and the destruction of cranes in air strikes.

This means that about only 30% of the supplies Yemen needs are getting into the country at all.

The ICRC has given up trying to get anything through Hudaydah, and is sending supplies through the smaller southern port of Aden.

But, points out Robert Mardini, this means “restrictions and delays” as “there are 100 checkpoints between Aden and Sanaa”.

Terror of life under siege in Yemen

The UN has repeatedly called on Yemen’s warring parties to keep Hudaydah open, amid fears the Saudi-led coalition may be preparing an all-out assault on the port to try to deal the rebels a major blow.

“People in Hudaydah are already on the edge of famine,” says Caroline Anning. “An attack would tip them over.”

Robert Mardini says the possibility of a military operation in densely populated Hudaydah “is of great concern”.

Child deaths

At the pledging conference aid agencies will warn again that help cannot come quickly enough for Yemen’s people, especially its children.

Unicef has calculated that a child is dying every 10 minutes from a preventable illness.

“A malnourished child is nine times more likely to die from a preventable illness than one which is properly nourished,” explains Christophe Boulierac of the UN children’s agency Unicef.

“We have got to raise awareness of the terrible impact this conflict is having.”

As far as funding goes, the UN may find it is pushing at an open door: government ministers do not usually attend pledging conferences unless they intend to donate.

But there is another message from humanitarian workers weary of trying to patch up the devastation of conflict, and of watching children die unnecessarily.

“The international community [has to] get its act together” says Robert Mardini. “To get meaningful peace negotiations back on track, because humanitarian aid alone cannot solve the problem.”

Source: BBC

Founder of the African Children's Choir, Music For Life and Friends In The West.