Christians ‘Crushed Under Steamroller’ and ‘Hung on a Cross Over Fire’ in North Korea

Kim Jun un

A new report released last week by the British-based human rights advocacy organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide has revealed more horrific details on how the authoritarian North Korean regime tortures, mutilates and kills Christians.

While it is no secret that that the regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has thrown tens of thousands of Christians in political prison camps, where they have been subjected to hard labor, torture and have even been killed, details are often left out on just how North Korea victimizes its own citizens for going against the will of the regime.

In a 15-page report titled Total Denial: Violations of Freedom of Religion or Belief in North Korea, CSW reports that although North Korea is a member of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, freedom of religion is one right that is “largely non-existent” in the country.

“Denial of this right has occurred since the 1950s, and the current leader, Kim Jong-un, continues to violate citizens’ religious freedom,” the report explains. “Religious beliefs are seen as a threat to the loyalty demanded by the supreme leader, so anyone holding these beliefs is severely persecuted. Christians suffer significantly because of the anti-revolutionary and imperialist labels attached to them by the country’s leadership.”

Although the South Korea-based Database Center for North Korean Human Rights finds that there are at least 123 religious institutions in North Korea, most of them are Buddhist or Cheondoist temples. Even though there are three Protestant churches, one Catholic cathedral and a Russian Orthodox church in the capital of Pyongyang, those state-sponsored churches are only there for propaganda purposes.

According to CSW, Lord David Alton and Baroness Caroline Cox, who visited the churches, found during their visit to the Catholic church that there wasn’t even a priest.

“Although the buildings and religious services appear to suggest some degree of freedom of religion or belief, that freedom is extremely limited and may be aimed primarily at visitors and foreigners,” the CSW report states. “All the churches are found in Pyongyang and there is no record of church buildings existing anywhere else.”

Although the spreading of the Gospel is forbidden in North Korea, as is it considered a crime against the state, many North Koreans are exposed to Christianity through family ties, missionaries or external religious organizations and charities.

Many North Korean Christians have to undertake their worship and other religious activity in secret. They either worship individually or at non-official house churches. Believers who are caught worshiping, running non-sanctioned churches or carrying non-sanctioned religious material are often arrested and hauled away to political prison camps.

“Crimes against them in these camps include extra-judicial killing, extermination, enslavement/forced labor, forcible transfer of population, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, persecution, enforced disappearance, rape and sexual violence, and other inhumane acts,” the CSW report adds.

“Documented incidents against Christians include being hung on a cross over a fire, crushed under a steamroller, herded off bridges, and trampled underfoot,” the report continues. “A policy of guilt by association applies, meaning that the relatives of Christians are also detained regardless of whether they share the Christian belief. Even North Koreans who have escaped to China, and who are or become Christians, are often repatriated and subsequently imprisoned in a political prison camp.”

North Korea Freedom Protest(PHOTO: THE CHRISTIAN POST/SAMUEL SMITH)
North Korea human rights activists protest outside the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. on Save North Koreans Day, Sept. 23, 2016.

 

 

This is not the first time that it has been reported that the North Korean government has used steamrollers to crush Christians. According to an eyewitness, five men accused of running a non-sanctioned church were crushed to death by a steamroller in 1996.

Suzanne Scholte, the chair of the North Korea Freedom Coalition and vice co-chair of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, told The Christian Post on Tuesday that CSW’s report is an “accurate representation of how Christians are especially persecuted.”

“I have personally interviewed defectors who experienced torture and abuse simply because it had been rumored that they had become Christians,” Scholte wrote in an email. “We also know that when refugees are repatriated from China to North Korea, if it is discovered that they have been exposed to Christians, this can lead to death.”

“Because the DPRK regime was set up so that North Koreans are raised to worship the Kims as their gods, there is nothing the regime fears more than the spread of Christianity,” she continued. “The knowledge of the one true God is the greatest threat to the regime.”

Scholte believes that North Korea’s animosity toward Christianity came as a result of the fact that former supreme leader Kim Il-sung was raised a Christian and saw the power of the Christian faith in standing up to the Japanese occupation.

“Kim set himself up as a god, perverting the holy trinity with Kim Jong-il as the Christ and juche as the Holy Spirit,” Scholte explained. “North Koreans are taught from childhood to give prayers of thanks to their father, Kim Il-sung, to say a perverted version of the Apostles creed to their great leader, and to study their ideology in thousands of centers across North Korea.”

For the past 14 years, North Korea has ranked as the worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List.

 

North Korea(PHOTO: KCNA VIA REUTERS)

A rally celebrating the success of a recent nuclear test is held in Kim Il Sung square in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang September 13, 2016

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Pastors in India beaten and jailed simply for praying in their own homes

Evangelicals in India are calling on Christian leaders in the UK to pressure the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit this week to intervene to help persecuted Christians in India.

Christians are being beaten and killed in India and the influence of hardline Hindus has increased since Modi’s government was elected in summer last year, according to the charity Open Doors.

Vijesh Lall, secretary of the Freedom and Development Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, told Christian Today: “The situation has deteriorated in the north. It is not just Christians. It is other minorities and civil society being affected as well.”

He described one incident where Christian pastors were beaten and jailed simply for praying together in a private house.

“The Christians on the ground are fearful and have been for quite some time. People used to attack Christians if they evangelised on the street. Now Christians are not even safe if they are praying in their own homes.

“In one incident not long ago about 35 kilometres from Delhi, 13 pastors were gathered in the house of another pastor. They were praying. It was prayer meeting. There was no preaching or evangelising. They were attacked and beaten. They were taken to the police station where they were told: ‘This is a Hindu nation. Your kind of prayers are not allowed.’ They were released later that day after many hours in custody.”

He conceded that the Modi had on at least two different occasions said everyone in the country will have freedom of religion. “But nothing seems to be happening on the ground.”

Last year there were 147 anti-Christian incidents and already this year to the end of October there have been 130.

“I do not see a bright future unless the Prime Minister really does something. He’s there in your country now. Maybe people can try and talk to him about this,” he pleaded.

Of the population of 1.21 billion, about 2.3 per cent are Christian, between 25 million and 27 million.

Modi’s three-day visit to the UK has been marked by protests. Hundreds of angry demonstrators are protesting against Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been accused of creating “an atmosphere of religious intolerance and impunity” by religious freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

The defeat of Modi’s party in the Bihar elections is however a game-changer. Christians and people of Indian heritage worldwide are angry that Modi is apparently allowing India’s great and historic reputation as a nation reputation where religious tolerance is practised to be tarnished by allowing those promoting the “to be Indian is to be Hindu” doctrine to range free.

A report earlier this year by the Evangelical Fellowship of India and the Alliance Defending Freedom, Hate and Targeted Violence Against Christians in India, detailed violence against Christians and found 54 per cent of attacks were in the form of threats, intimidation and coercion, often with the police looking on. Physical violence constituted a quarter of all cases and violence against Christian women, a trend that is increasing, was 11 per cent. Breaking of statues and the Cross, and other acts of desecration were recorded in about 8 per cent of cases.

Another report, 300 Days: Documenting Sangh Hate and Communal Violence Under the Violence under the Modi Regime, drafted by prominent Christian and Muslim Human Rights activists and scholars, also tells a dark story.

In the first 300 days of Prime Minister Modi’s term, which began which began on May 26, 2014, the authors documented 600 reported cases of religious intolerance directed towards religious minorities. Of these, 149 were against Christians. There were 43 deaths from these acts of violence.

The states experiencing the most incidents of reported violence are Chhattisgarh with 28 incidents, followed closely by neighbouring Madhya Pradesh with 26, Uttar Pradesh with 18 and Telengana, a new state carved out of Andhra Pradesh, with 15 incidents.

One example of the kind of public discourse Christians and Muslims are concerned about came from Mohan Bhagwat, the head of the powerful Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. Speaking at the 50th Anniversary of foundation of its religious wing, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bhagwat said: “Hindutva is the identity of India and it has the capacity to swallow other identities. We just need to restore those capacities.” He has also stated that India is a Hindu state and “citizens of Hindustan should be known as Hindus”.

 

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