North Korean Refugees Risk Torture, Death to Return to Share Christ's Gospel

As crisis talks continue over North Korea's nuclear capability, refugees have given rare interviews about their perilous journey to escape the nation that heads the list of the worst persecutors of Christians in the world, Release International has told Christian Today.

|PIC1|Christian mission to the persecuted church Release International has been working undercover to help refugees find freedom and faith. The organisation explains that "each year thousands of North Koreans flee the repressive regime of Kim Jong Il - a leader who has cultivated a personality cult that borders on idolatry".

"First they must brave the border guards who will shoot them on sight. Those who make it into China must continue their perilous journey along the so-called 'underground railroad'.

"Their desire to escape is so great that they risk discovery by security forces and exploitation by human traffickers. Some are forced into slave labour, prostitution or marriage."

Release International is working with its partners to set up safe houses in China. From her secret location, Suk, a farmer, explained: "I escaped from North Korea five times - twice I was captured by traffickers. [The last time] two Chinese men appeared in front of us, holding knives. They tied us with ropes and took us to a cave in the mountains. They were traffickers. After a week I managed to escape."

RI also has come across extensive reports that when Chinese security forces capture refugees they send them back to North Korea to face brutal detention or death in one of dozens of labour camps. These have been described as death camps by human rights organisations.

It is known that some refugees become Christian through the work of the underground church in China. In addition, some feel called to return to North Korea as Christian missionaries, reports RI. Yet they know if they are caught preaching the gospel they will be sent to a labour camp or executed.

Peter (22), has already had a spell behind bars in North Korea, tells RI: "Once I was arrested and sent back. I was put in prison. I suffered forced labour for about ten months. A Christian woman was executed due to her faith in Jesus."

But despite the grave risk, Peter has his heart set on going back to his country: "I strongly believe God's plan is to train me and send me back to North Korea to evangelise my people. Even though I may be put in prison or killed I will go."

Hannah (21), asks for prayer when she, too, returns to share Jesus in North Korea: "Pray that God will help me to plant a church in North Korea where people can praise the Lord."

Release International's CEO, Andy Dipper, testified, "Their courage is astounding. Those who return know full well the brutality of the North Korean regime towards practising Christians. Please pray for them - and help Release International to give them the practical support they need."

For more information on the situation of persecution in North Korea, please visit Release International's website www.releaseinternational.org

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