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North Korea's Christians: Please pray

Christian human rights group Open Doors USA says the ongoing threat of war is prompting North Korea’s besieged Christian community to ask for the world’s prayers.

Recent intelligence reports appear to support the concerns of North Korea’s Christians.

The Washington Free Beacon reports that China has moved tanks and heavy military vehicles to the border to fulfill its military commitment to North Korea.

The report says that the transfer of hardware to the border is connected to North Korea’s March 30 declaration that a state of war exists with South Korea.

Further intelligence reports place the heavy military hardware deployments in Daqing and in the border city of Shenyang in Liaoning Province.

CNN also is reporting that South Korean intelligence has intercepted a North Korean message that says North Korea is preparing to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Open Doors Communications Director Jerry Dykstra says the call for prayer is urgent.

The book of those who gave all for their faith, “Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs.”

“Prayer for beleaguered believers in North Korea is more important than ever,” said Dykstra, who is summoning Western Christians to heed the call.

“We must respond now to the Christian leaders’ request to pray for them,” Dykstra said.

And there’s another need, he said.

“Pray for Kim Jong-un; that God will work in his heart and he will pursue peace and not war. Pray for wisdom for leaders in the United States, South Korea and China,” Dykstra said.

“Pray for Christians who are put in even more danger due to war preparations. Pray families will find food to feed their families. Finally, pray that no matter what happens, Christians will remain strong in their faith,” Dykstra said.

International Christian Concern Far East analyst Ryan Morgan says that while concern over the saber rattling is well founded, the West can’t forget history.

“While the world is rightly concerned with North Korea’s threats of war and nuclear attack, we can sometimes forget that the Kim regime has been committing what amounts to genocide on millions of their own people for well more than half a century,” Morgan said.

Morgan adds that Kim Jong-un is simply following in his father’s footsteps.

“I think that the outright hostility and complete lack of concern for international opinion that Kim Jong-un has been demonstrating in recent days puts the final nail in the coffin for anyone who still hoped his leadership was going to lead to reform,” Morgan said.

Morgan adds that Christians will continue to suffer.

“Tragically that means tens of thousands of Christians will probably remain locked up in atrocious conditions for the foreseeable future while thousands more remain in hiding, risking imprisonment or even execution for something as simple as owning a Bible,” Morgan said.

Ireland-based Church in Chains Executive Director David Turner confirms Morgan’s assessment, that the war drums are only compounding an already vicious situation for North Korea’s Christians.

“In the Winter 2011 issue of our magazine, we reported: Anyone discovered to be a Christian is executed or sent to prison camp (mere possession of a Bible can result in death) and attending an underground church service can result in public execution,” Turner said.

Turner adds that the persecution goes beyond just the believer.

“In such cases all family members are punished up to the third generation, and parents may be forced to watch their children’s execution first,” Turner said.

“Escapees from labor camps report that Christians receive much more torture than other prisoners and that they are given the worst jobs in the prison camps, such as working in dangerous factories or with septic tanks,” Turner said.

WND reported only weeks ago that just possessing a Bible still can be cause for a death penalty in North Korea, which remained No. 1 on this year’s World Watch List of the world’s most notorious persecutors of Christians, a project assembled by Open Doors USA.

In North Korea, a possible lesser penalty for someone having a Bible would be for the offender, and three generations of his or her family, to be sent to prison camps, where at estimated 50,000 to 70,000 people are held.

Open Doors’ Senior Communications Specialist Paul Estabrook said the reclusive communist dictatorship earned the ranking based on the group’s five criteria for evaluating a country.

“North Korea doesn’t allow Christians any freedom in any of the five spheres used in the process,” Estabrook said.

“We use five spheres, the private, family, community, congregational, and public. … North Korea doesn’t allow Christians any freedom,” Estabrook said.

In addition, the dictatorship maintains a gulag, he noted.

“North Korea is known to have somewhere between 50,000 to 70,000 Christians in forced labor camps. And they’re there for doing nothing except trying to worship the Lord,” Estabrook said.

That aligns with what WND reported in July, that under newly installed leader Kim Jong-un, the enigmatic nation of North Korea still has about 70,000 people in work camps.