by Alex Buchan
LONDON (Compass) -- Credible reports of seven Christians executed for their faith inside North Korea have reached reliable sources in China. The seven, all men ranging in age from 15 to 58 years of age, were executed in April. The circumstances surrounding their deaths cannot be revealed.
North Korea, a fanatically communist state, continues to hound all religious believers. The U.S. Department of State's 2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom said there were unconfirmed reports of 23 Christians executed between October 1999 and April 2000.
Some say that a number of Christians were rounded up and executed prior to North Korea's June summit with South Korea's Prime Minister, Kim Dae Jung, who is a Presbyterian elder.
Although there are "show" churches in North Korea, religious belief is not tolerated within this state of 20 million people.
As a Seoul-based North Korea watcher put it, "It is really a control issue. The regime still expects totally loyalty, and when people believe in God behind (the government's) back, it is regarded as the deepest form of disloyalty."
The September 5 State Department report gave chilling details from witnesses before the U.S. Congress in April 1999 about how religious prisoners were treated far worse than other prisoners.
One former prison guard testified that "those believing in God were regarded as insane." He told of an incident when a woman was viciously beaten and kicked for the act of praying for a child who was being abused in the prison.
A mission organization reported the testimony of a 28-year-old Communist Party member who was dispatched to execute three Christians. He pilfered one of the books from the condemned men and showed it to his mother. She looked horrified and wept bitterly. After he told her what had happened, she cried, "You have just killed three brothers of my closest brother." Mystified, the son asked, "Have I killed your relative?" She replied, "My brother is Jesus Christ and you have killed three of His followers." The book was a Bible.
The story illustrates that even Christian mothers in North Korea are afraid to share their faith with their children.
But the execution reports are impossible to confirm due to the closed nature of North Korean society. Yet the reports are credible because of the stories that North Korean refugees in China tell of how Christians are treated in their country.
Indeed, a number of Christians have fled to China and would claim asylum on grounds of religious persecution, but Chinese government officials rarely allow the refugees to appeal to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, despite a legal obligation to do so. Most are forcibly returned to North Korea.
It is estimated the number of North Korean refugees in China could be as high as 100,000, but it is not known how many of that number are Christians.
Copyright © 2000 Compass Direct News Service. Used with permission.