December 22nd, 2011 11:49 EST
North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Il`s Death Prompts Instability in Asian Markets
"Pretending that a handful of government-run show churches in Pyongyang constitute any kind of religious freedom does not serve fellow believers." -- IRD Religious Liberty Director Faith J.H. McDonnell
North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Il`s death has prompted instability in Asian markets and concerns about how a power transfer to a young, untested leader could destabilize the region. The reclusive communist nation`s vulnerable Christian population may also be entering a period of uncertainty, resulting in either more harsh repression or a new period of relative tolerance.
The officially atheist state counts few Christians publically. Defectors tell of a persecuted yet enduring house church movement, the size of which is impossible to ascertain. Since 2001, the U.S. State Department report on global religious freedom has named North Korea among the worst offenders for harsh limits on religious expression. U.S. officials believe North Korea`s regime has sentenced between 150,000 and 200,000 people to political prison camps, many for solely reasons of religious practice.
North Korea has a vibrant Christian past: the capital of Pyongyang was once known as the "Jerusalem of the East" for being the fastest-growing Christian community in East Asia during the early 20th century.
IRD Religious Liberty Director Faith J.H. McDonnell commented:
"Sadly, succession periods between dictators and their children rarely result in true reforms, despite initial hopes. Witness Syria`s Bashar al-Assad: a mild-mannered and western-trained ophthalmologist who revealed himself fully capable of the same brutality as his late father.
"Rather than hoping for the best, western church groups should not be silent about North Korea`s various aggressions. Making absurd excuses for North Korea`s inhuman persecution of Christians or pretending that a handful of government-run show churches in Pyongyang constitute any kind of religious freedom does not serve fellow believers.
"Our times are in God`s hands. The time of Kim Jong-Il`s merciless persecution of North Korean Christians and irrationally brutal treatment of all of North Korea`s citizens has been ended by God.
"IRD asks Christians around the world to pray for the Christians of North Korea, who are among the world`s most persecuted Christian believers."www.TheIRD.org
Source: Christian Newswire
To: National & International Desks
Contact: Jeff Walton,
Institute on Religion and Democracy,