Christianity quietly coming in through cracks, defector says
Christianity is growing in North Korea, even if it must do so quietly, in a society where worship of any deity but the ruling Kim family could lead to execution.
That’s according to a defector from North Korea who now is with a Seoul-based organization called the Worldwide Coalition to Stop Genocide in North Korea.
“Officially sanctioned persecution of people for religious reasons is still there and, I would say, even stronger than before,” the defector told The Telegraph.
But subtle changes are slowly becoming visible, said the defector, who declined to be named as he is active in assisting underground churches operating in the North. “In the past, the people were told to worship the Kim family as their god, but many North Koreans no longer respect Kim Jong-un,” he said. “That means they are looking for something else to sustain their faith. “In some places, that has led to the emergence of shamens, but the Christian church is also growing and deepening its roots there,” he said. “Even though people know they could be sent to prison—or worse—they are still choosing to worship, and that means that more cracks are appearing in the regime and the system,” he added.
The interview came in the wake of the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2016, which says the Pyongyang regime continues to persecute anyone practicing religion within its borders.
The State Department released the annual report on Tuesday. Despite the fact that North Korea’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, “the 2014 report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Human Rights Situation of the DPRK concluded there was an almost complete denial by the government of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, and, in many instances, violations of human rights committed by the government constituted crimes against humanity,” the report states.
“The government continued to deal harshly with those who engaged in almost any religious practices through executions, torture, beatings and arrests,” the State Department says.” Those imprisoned for religious reasons make up part of an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners, who are believed to be held in the political prison camp system “in remote areas under horrific conditions,” according to the report.