As US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un meet today in Singapore for historic talks, Christians around the world are praying for what won’t be discussed by the two leaders.
When Trump and Kim shook hands this morning, Open Doors USA was already praying that the meeting would set a new course for relations between the two countries, and that it would signal the beginning of moves towards religious freedom in the closed country.
“As these discussions go on right now, just about five or six minutes from where I’m sitting, we’re going to pray with them,” said Open Doors USA CEO David Curry, who prayed outside all the key venues the leaders would occupy in Singapore.
North Korea has consistently topped the list of the most dangerous place for Christians, according to the annual Open Doors World Watch List, a result of religious persecution driven by a state that fears it will interfere with the worship of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.
“Christians are seen as hostile elements in society which have to be eradicated,” says the Open Doors report.
While in its constitution, North Koreans are afforded a right of freedom of religious belief, in practice, a special commission conducted by the United Nations in 2014 found that North Korea had an “almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” North Koreans are under constant surveillance, with indoctrination against Protestant Christianity, in particular, beginning in childhood. Christians discovered with Bibles are sent to political labour camps or sometimes killed.
One of the US citizens who was released was detained because of the “hostile act” of prayer.
More than 120,000 people are believed to be imprisoned in North Korea without due process for political reasons, according to the US-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Open Doors estimates that more than 50,000 Christians are being held in detention centres, prisons, or political camps.
Three American citizens were released by North Korea and returned to the United States last month as an act of goodwill ahead of the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.
According to the World Watch Monitor, Kim Hak-song, one of the US citizens who was released was detained because of the “hostile act” of prayer.
Kim Hak-Song was arrested on a train from North Korea’s capital Pyongyang to China in May last year for allegedly having committed hostile acts against the North Korean regime.
He told his home church, the Oriental Mission Church in East Hollywood, Los Angeles, on Saturday June 2, that when he asked the authorities what he had done wrong, the answer was that he committed the crime of prayer.
Officials had records of an email he had sent to his church asking them to pray for the people of North Korea, and they knew he had led morning prayers for a worship group, he said.
Kim Hak-song had been visiting North Korea for a month at a time while he was working in China as a missionary for his church. In North Korea he was involved with agricultural development work with the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.
Kim Hak-song was released on May 9 with two others, Kim Dong-chul, a pastor in his early 60s, and Tony Kim (also known as Kim Sang-duk).
Open Doors has released a set of 15 prayer points for North Korea today:
- Pray that President Trump and Kim Jong-un’s historic meeting on June 12 will be the first in a series of actions that sets North Korea on a new course of religious freedom.
- Pray that Kim will be convinced to release the more than 50,000-plus Christians unjustly held in detention centres and prison camps throughout the country.
- Pray that Kim will loosen age-old requirements that residents attend indoctrination classes and display and bow to Kim family portraits.
- Pray that Kim will lift information embargoes and allow his people greater access to radio shows, TV programmes, and websites.
- Pray that Kim will allow for the creation of new churches where North Koreans can freely worship outside of the one “show church” that currently exists.
- Pray that existing believers in North Korea would take courage to lead a new revival of the Christian faith in North Korea.
- Pray that the underground church in North Korea would grow in boldness and be ready for widespread evangelism efforts when the opportunity arises.
- Pray that extended families who have been separated across North and South Korea may be reunited.
- Pray that organisations such as Open Doors will be allowed access to provide Christian training and resources to believers in North Korea.
- Pray that other relief and aid organisations would gain entrance to provide relief aid, trauma care, and other needed services.
- Pray that North Korea’s economic and social infrastructure will find reform – that children will no longer be forced into labour, that preschoolers will no longer be indoctrinated, that roadways will be made safe.
- Pray that North Korea’s food supply would be enriched through education and increased trade, so that the two in five who are currently undernourished will be provided with adequate nutrition.
- Pray that God will give North Korean people wisdom to sift through the many nationalistic and mythical storylines and propaganda they have been fed throughout their lives.
- Pray that parents will ultimately be able to freely share their faith with their children and raise them to know Jesus.
- Pray that US and other world leaders would put in place the right sanctions, pressures, encouragements and opportunities to restore peace and wellbeing for North Koreans and their neighbours.