NORTH KOREAN PASTOR TORTURED FOR CHRISTIAN FAITH SAYS LIFE IN U.S. IS ‘HEAVEN’ AFTER LIVING IN ‘HELL’

By LEAH MARIEANN KLETT

Choi Kwanghyuk, a pastor, was able to flee his native North Korea. Today, he lives in California, which he says is “heaven” compared to the horrors he once experienced. Fox News

A North Korean pastor who was targeted and persecuted by the government for his Christian faith has said that after fleeing to America, life is “heaven” compared to the “hell” he experienced in the isolated country.

Choi Kwanghyuk, 55, fled North Korea several years ago and now lives in Los Angeles, CA: “There is an enormous difference between my life in North Korea and my life in the U.S,” he told Fox News. “The life in North Korea is hell … life in America is heaven.”

Being a Christian in the officially atheist state where public worship is forbidden was incredibly dangerous, yet he felt compelled to share the gospel with others.

“We couldn’t raise our voice during a service, we couldn’t sing out loud during a worship … that was hard,” Choi said.. “Also, we had to hide so that other people could not see us.”

While living in North Hamgyong province, Choi started an underground church, where congregants worshipped with only one Bible.

“There were about nine people,” he said. “I couldn’t do mission work because we had to keep it secret that we had a church. If that information had leaked, we could have faced the death penalty.”

He added, “North Hamgyong province is very cold. In the winter, we would dig a big hole and store kimchi there. We sometimes had services there.

In the summer, we had services in the mountain or by the river. I never heard the term ‘underground church’ until I got here [to the U.S.].”

In 2008, North Korean authorities arrested Choi, and threw him in prison where he was interrogated about his faith and routinely tortured.

Eventually, Choi decided to attempt to escape after learning he was to be sent to one of North Korea’s notorious labor camps, where prisoners are subject to horrific forms of torture.

“I decided to escape because I thought that once they sent me to the other camp, they could eventually send me to the concentration camp or kill me,” Choi recalled. “I was traveling back and forth between China and North Korea, but they kept searching for me, and I knew it could put my friends in danger too, so I left.”

Choi finally escaped to neighboring China, and was granted asylum in the U.S. in 2013. He first lived in Dallas before eventually moving to Los Angeles.

Today, the pastor bears physical scars from his time North Korea, as he is unable to work as a result of the injuries he received while being tortured. Still, he is determined to tell the world about the human rights abuses in the oppressive country
“First of all, every human must have the right to freedom,” he said. “There is no freedom in North Korea. By law, they have the freedom of religion and the freedom of the press, but the reality is very different.”

North Korea, now ruled by Kim Jong Un, is ranked the most oppressive place for Christians in the world, according to Open Doors USA. It’s estimated that between 30,000 and 70,000 Christians are held in “kwanliso,” or political labor camps.

“[Choi’s] statements describing oppression, as well as his report of imprisonment for owning a Bible or practicing faith, align with everything we know about North Korea,” Opens Doors President David Curry told Fox News. “Rated the worst place for the persecution of Christians, North Korea treats Christians horrendously and registers them as ‘enemies of the state’ for their faith.”

Kim Chung-seong, a defector from North Korea who spoke at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians in May, said the government fears the spread of the gospel.

“The one thing that the North Korean regime fears the most, and is afraid of, is the spreading of the Gospel,” he said, according to the Catholic News Agency. “Because the Bible and the Gospel speaks the truth. Once the light shines in the dark room, there is light in the room.”
“They [the government] will do anything to prevent the spread of the Gospel in North Korea,” he said, adding that the government even set up a “façade” organization called the Korea Christian Association to lure the believers.
“But] as you can see, we cannot block the sunlight with our hand,” he said.

Source: The Gospel Herald

Chibok diaries: Chronicling a Boko Haram kidnapping

One of the Chibok girls freed in May has been telling journalist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani how a diary was kept of some of her three years in captivity with Boko Haram Islamist militants.

One of the oldest in her class, Naomi Adamu was 24 when she and more than 200 mainly Christian students were taken off into Boko Haram’s Sambisa forest hideout in north-eastern Nigeria in 2014, sparking global outrage.

While in captivity, the girls were given exercise books for the Koranic classes they were made to attend.

But some of the girls used these to keep secret diaries. When the militants found out, they were forced to burn the books.

Ms Adamu managed to hide hers. She and her close friend, Sarah Samuel, now 20, and three other girls used the books to chronicle some of their experiences.

Two 40-page notebooks used as diaries survive

The diary entries, written in passable English and poor Hausa, are undated and appear to be from their early months in captivity.

Here are 10 of the many disclosures. Some spelling and punctuation have been altered for clarity:

1) Kidnap was not the plan

The militants who attacked the Chibok school on 14 April 2014 had come with the intention of stealing an “engine block”, the diary notes. It is not clear what piece of machinery they wanted – there had been some construction work at the school a few weeks earlier, so it may have been the machine used for moulding cement blocks, which can also be used for constructing crude weapons, or they may have been after an engine block from a vehicle.

But when it could not be found, they argued over what to do with the students they had gathered in groups. After considering a number of gory options, they decided to take the girls with them.

“They started argument in their midst. So one small boy said that they should burn us all and they said, ‘No let us take them with us to Sambisa.’ Another person said, ‘No let’s not do that. Let’s lead them… to their parent homes.’ As they were in argument, then one of them said, ‘No, I can’t come with empty car and go back with empty car… If we take them to [Abubakar] Shekau [Boko Haram’s leader], he will know what to do.'”

2) A telltale prevented escape

Some girls were loaded into the militants’ vehicle at the school while the majority were made to walk at gunpoint for miles, until several trucks arrived to ferry them away.


Who wrote the diaries?

Main diarists: Naomi Adamu and Sarah Samuel

Rhoda Peter, Saratu Ayuba and Margaret Yama made smaller contributions

Four of them were freed in May 2017, after negotiations

Sarah Samuel agreed to marry a militant last year and remains in captivity


On their way to Boko Haram’s forest hideout, when some students began escaping by jumping off the trucks, one of the kidnapped girls alerted their abductors – perhaps out of fear of being left alone, or a propensity to obey whoever is in authority, or the desire to have company in misery.

“Then one girl in the car said, ‘Driver, some girls are jumping to escape.’ Then the driver opened the door of the car then searched for them with the torch but didn’t find anyone. So they said to them that they should stay [in] one place, that if they jump down again, if they saw her or any they will shoot her.”

3) Cruel tricks

The militants played a number of cruel tricks on the kidnapped girls, including pretending that their parents had been captured by Boko Haram. On one occasion, they separated the Christian girls from those who were Muslim and threatened to burn those who would not convert to Islam with petrol.

“Then they came to us and said, ‘Those who are Muslim, it is time for prayer.’ After they had prayed, [they said], ‘Those who are Muslim, let them be on one side and those who are Christian let them too be on one side.’

“Then we saw jerrycan in the car so we thought it was petrol. Then they said, ‘Who and how many of you will turn to Muslim.’ So many of us, because of fear, some of us stand up and went inside… So [they said], ‘The rest that remain you want to die, is that why you don’t want to be Muslim? We are going to burn you…’ Then they give us that jerrycan which we thought it was petrol. It is not petrol, it is water.”

4) Militant anger over rape claims

Some of the Chibok girls have stated in previous interviews that they were not sexually abused or forced into marriage – although they were sometimes whipped to persuade them to marry. Some girls were also taken as official concubines.

The girls hid the diaries by burying them in the ground or stuffing them in their underwear

The diaries show that the militants were livid about insinuations in the media that they were raping the girls. The group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, ranted about this a number of times, first in a recorded message that was played to the girls.

“Then in the night, they gathered us and preached to us and put [on] a cassette. They said that cassette is from their master Mr Abubakar Shekau…. So he said that just because of they kidnapped us to come and teach us the way of God, then your parents and the government and your principal are crying to us and saying that we are raping you and are doing bad, bad things to you… We brought you to teach you the way of Allah.”

5) Hijabs against temptation

The militants pleaded with the girls to not lead them into temptation, encouraging them to always keep their bodies covered in a hijab.

“He opened the Koran and started reading it, then he read one place that said anybody which they kidnap on the fight of jihad, it is your own, whatever you like, you will do with that person… But we that they give us hijab is that they don’t want to see our body, which will make them to sin and do what is very bad.”

6) Marriage proposals

The marriage proposals from militants were frequent and forceful.

“One girl wanted to go inside the room and pick something, then Malam Ahmed [one of the militants] went and met her and asked her about marriage. Then she said, ‘No.’ He asked her, ‘And so what is your own decision about this marriage?’

“Then she said that no, they kidnapped her from GGSS [Government Girls Secondary School] Chibok and brought her to Sambisa and now they are talking to her about marriage. How will she get married – after all her mother and her father and her aunties and the rest of her colleagues, they don’t even know… Then she asked him, if she says no – that she will not get married, she will only stay and follow her God alone, is it not good? Then he said, ‘No, it is bad.'”

Some were pressured to change their mind.

“We saw the people come in two Hilux [vans]. Then they came asking for those who want to get married. They asked us and said anybody who accepts Muslim religion… must get married if truly she holds the religion with two hands. They gave us 30 minutes to give them their answer but we kept quiet. Then we stayed for an hour but nobody answered them.”

Naomi Adamu told me that those who refused to get married were treated as slaves: “Every day, they beat us. They tell us to marry and if you refuse, they will beat you. We will wash cloth, fetch water, do everything for their wives. We were slaves.

7) Escapees returned by villagers

Despite the global Bring Back Our Girls campaign, which saw the involvement of celebrities like former US First Lady Michelle Obama, some people in surrounding communities wanted no part in bringing back the girls, and returned some of the girls when they managed to escape.

“There is another day that some girls ran. They tried to escape but they couldn’t. So those people arrested them. The way they arrested them was they entered into a shop and asked them to help them and give them water and biscuit. So, the people asked them, ‘Who are you and where did you come from?’ The girls said, ‘We are those that the BH kidnapped from GGSS [Government Girls Secondary School], Chibok.’ So, one of the people said, ‘Are these not Shekau’s children?’

“So they gave them good food to eat and a place to sleep and the next day, they returned them to our place… As they brought them to Sambisa at night, they whipped them and said that they are going to cut off their necks.”

8) Conversion blame game

The girls were told that they would be allowed to go home to their families if they all, with no exception, agreed to convert to Islam. Those who agreed to convert then blamed the girls who refused for their continued captivity.

“They said that those that do not accept Muslim religion are [like] sheep and cows and goat… they will kill them… Then Malam Abba [one of the militants] said those that who did not accept Muslim religion, they should be on one side, let them not enter into those who have become Muslim. So he told us to stay aside – that they are going to arrange another place for them. Another person said no, that let us stay together. As they left, one week later, the rest of us said that we that did not become Muslim, we are those who are stopping ourselves from going home.”

9) How videos were filmed

Boko Haram released several videos about the Chibok girls. This is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of one of them.

We have blurred the girls’ faces as some former Boko Haram captives and “wives” have been stigmatised after their release

“Then there is a day before this, they came and… [filmed] about 10 girls under the Tamarind tree. They called them one by one and asked them about their name and the name of their parents and then they [film us] and said, ‘Did we hurt you in any way.’ We said, ‘No.’ They told us to tell our parents and the government what they are doing to us. The government and our parents are saying that they are raping us and disturbing us.

“So they called out one of us and asked her, ‘Since we kidnapped you and brought you to this place, have we ever slept with or raped you?’ She answered, ‘No.’ He asked her again… ‘I will like you to let you show to your parents and the government what we have offered you and how we are taking good care of you.'”

10) Militants followed the news closely

The videos were sometimes filmed straight after the militants listened to the news.
“They stayed a little while and listened to the BBC [Hausa service]. As they finished listening to the radio, they called us one by one. They told some to stand and some to kneel and some to sit so they [filmed] us and told us to read. Then we read from [Islamic text].”


What’s happened to the diarists?

Naomi Adamu and three other diarists – Rhoda Peter, Saratu Ayuba and Margaret Yama – were released in May.

In September, the government sent them to study at the American University of Nigeria in the north-eastern town of Yola.

Ms Adamu, the second of seven children, said she kept the diaries with only her family in mind, and seems baffled by my interest.
“I wrote it because of remembrance,” she said.

“For my brothers to see it, my sisters to see it, my parents to see it.”

Naomi Adamu’s mother Kolo cannot read but is eager to know more about the diaries’ contents

But her friend Sarah Samuel, who wrote many of the entries, is yet to return, which is a source of sadness for her.

“I feel pained. I feel so pained. Up till now, I’m still thinking about her.”

About two years into their captivity, at a time when a military crackdown led to Boko Haram’s supplies being cut off, she succumbed to pressure and married, a decision that entitled her to leave the camp with her Boko Haram husband, hopefully for a better life elsewhere with access to food. None of those who got married have been released so far.

Her father, Samuel Yaga, told me that he was not surprised to learn that his oldest child wrote while in captivity.

“She was always reading. Sometimes, she fell asleep with a book in her lap,” he said.

On the last page of one notebook, she had listed the names of her five siblings, ending with: “My father’s name is Samuel and my mother’s name is Rebecca.”

It was almost as if she did not want to forget.

Source: BBC News

PORT AUTHORITIES IN SUDAN DETAIN BIBLE SHIPMENT WITHOUT EXPLANATION

Container held for more than two years.

Port Sudan, Sudan. (Wikipedia)

JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – Authorities in Sudan have detained a container of Bibles in Port Sudan without explanation for at least two years, a source said.
A Bible Society in Sudan representative told Morning Star News the container was one of two containing Arabic Bibles detained more than two years ago. The other container was released shortly after appeals to port authorities.

The detained shipments were destined for Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, said the source, who asked to remain unnamed for security reasons. At present the Bible Society in Sudan does not have a single copy of an Arabic Bible available in Khartoum, he said.

Other shipments of Bibles at Port Sudan, on the Red Sea, have also been detained over the past two years, he added.

A church leader said availability of Bibles and Christian literature in the country is increasingly limited.

“There is difficulty in getting Bibles in the country,” he said.

The Bible Society in Sudan representative said a port official in the past week has been more willing to consider releasing the shipment. Sudan links Christianity with the West, and Christian leaders speculated that Sudan may be opening to releasing the shipment as the U.S. administration lifted sanctions on Oct. 12. The sanctions had been in place since 1997 for Sudan’s terrorist ties and human rights violations.

Port officials were unavailable for comment.

Other international Bible providers have also complained of Sudan detaining shipping containers full of Bibles – usually due to corruption, but in some cases also to keep Judeo-Christian scripture out of the country.

Detainment of Bibles in Sudan also took place before 2011, with one shipment held up for nearly four years, the Bible Society source said.

Following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. Church leaders said Sudanese authorities have demolished or confiscated churches and limited Christian literature on the pretext that most Christians have left the country following South Sudan’s secession.

The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.

Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians.

Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, shortly before the secession of South Sudan the following month, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.

Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2017 report.

Sudan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.

Source: Morning Star News

Four British missionaries kidnapped in Nigeria

By Alex Williams

Four Britons serving as missionaries and medics in a rural area of southern Nigeria were kidnapped last week, it has emerged.

According to The Times, they include a couple from Cambridge, former GP David Donovan and his wife Shirley, who are both 57 years old.

A spate of similar incidents in Delta state has been linked to efforts by the government to tackle militancy, including separatist movements.

Delta police commissioner, Zanna Ibrahim was quoted by the newspaper as saying: “The kidnap may not be unconnected with the present onslaught on militant activities embarked upon by the military…”

The gang thought to be behind the kidnapping early last Friday morning has a reputation for releasing captives shortly after a ransom has been paid.

Mr and Mrs Donovan run New Foundations, where they work alongside their sons, 30 year old Julian and Aidan, 27.

The couple have been operating in the region for 14 years, running Bible classes, a boat clinic and a permanent health care centre.

Fourteen supsects have been arrested by police, while officers have announced that a joint task force will make an attempt to rescue the group.

Travellers to Nigeria are currently warned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to avoid all travel to riverine areas of Delta state, and all but essential travel to non-riverine areas.

Source: Premier

Fulani Militants Raid Village, Kill 28 Women and Children

Villagers Hiding in School, Found by Militants and Slaughtered

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Fulani militants raided Nkedoron community in Plateau State, Nigeria. During this raid, the militants attacked and killed at least 28 people, mostly Christians, including many women and children. This struggle between Fulani militants and Christian farmers has been an ongoing and bloody struggle for years. As the Fulani continue to migrate south, militants clash with more Christian villages. This year alone, there have been more than 30 attacks on these Christian villages, leaving more than 250 killed and hundreds of homes burned down.

Rev. Andrew Okebe, the Zonal Coordinator of Christian Association of Nigeria, Miango District, told ICC, “The soldiers had told the women and children to go and hide in the primary (elementary) school class at night while the men in the village constituted a vigilante group and join[ed] the soldiers in patrolling the area. Sadly, the militia descended and the soldiers fled, leaving the defenseless villagers to be massacred by the terrorists.”

According to Rev. Okebe, these persistent attacks have left villagers feeling like the security operatives assigned to their communities are not committed to protecting and securing their lives from the aggressors whom they believe to be Islamic jihadists who want occupy their land. This attack followed only a few weeks after a Fulani militia invaded Ancha, a neighboring village to Nkedoron, where 20 members of a Baptist church were murdered in cold blood.

The most disturbing part of this attack is that there were members of the military stationed in the village. These soldiers are a part of Operation Safe Haven, which is the government’s attempt to confront the Fulani militant violence in the Middle Belt. Even though these soldiers were on the scene before the attack, they did nothing to prevent this terrible atrocity. It has left many questioning the dedication of these men to protecting the communities they are charged with protecting.

ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Nathan Johnson, stated, “We pray for those who are suffering the pain of loss. This unbelievable act of violence is becoming all too common for Christian villages in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region. The government of Nigeria must not only condemn the violence, but take the necessary steps to ensure that the perpetrators are punished and unable to commit these acts again. Until then, Christian villagers in the Middle Belt will be left to wonder if their community will be next.”

Source: International Christian Concern

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