No Stopping Church Growth in North Korea Despite 70 Years of Christian Persecution

ReutersChristians pray for starving North Koreans during a prayer session in Seoul.

God is hard at work even in North Korea, considered as the number one country where Christians are most persecuted.

The mainly atheist secretive nation of 24.5 million people is one of the few countries still under nominally communist rule, according to a BBC country profile.

Even in this grim, forbidding land, people who believe and follow Christ continue to endure more than 70 years of persecution, the Gospel Herald reports.

Christian persecution in the country reportedly became intense after the end of the Second World War in 1945. The government led by its "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung sought to remove all traces of Christianity by conducting a massive crackdown against Christians.

In the 1970s, the government announced Christians no longer exist in the country.

However, a report released last month by the Christian Solidarity Worldwide said there are thousands of Christians in the country, some of them suffering from extremely harsh torture in labour camps. In some cases, the report said, Christian prisoners are hung on a cross over a fire, and at times crushed under a steamroller.

"Prisoners are forced to carry out long days of hard labour, such as mining and logging. Malnutrition is rife due to the poor rations, and increases the mortality rate. Prisoners live in poor accommodation that does not provide adequate protection against the tough winters, further damaging their health; and are subject to brutal treatment, torture and even execution by prison guards," the report said.

That is why for the 14th straight year, North Korea has been ranked as the number one country where Christians are most persecuted, according to Open Doors USA.

And yet, in spite of all this, Christians remain. In fact, their community is growing, according to an article from the Lausanne Global Analysis.

The article notes that since 1995, the North Korean government has allowed about 480 foreign organisations to work in the country, and 70 of these are Christian, including Samaritan's Purse and World Vision.

The Lausanne Global Analysis says a large part of the North Korean population centres been exposed to Christian work, detailing that Christian groups are in 85 of the 145 counties and 23 of the 27 cities in the country.

Even more surprising was the revelation that the North Korean government is extending tolerance toward these Christian groups since the people leading these groups are reportedly perceived to be people of integrity, aside from the benefits they give to the country.

"In one of my trips, one minder commented to me, 'Many of the people coming into our country want to take advantage of us, but you (Christians) want to help us,'" the article author wrote.

The Lausanne Global Analysis went on to say that unlike China—where Christians are associated with negative things like the Opium Wars and colonialism—North Korea sees Christianity as being generally helpful to the nation.