December 17th, 2007 07:35 EST
Christmas in North Korea
No bright lights, no Christmas dinner and not even a Christmas Eve service for the followers of Jesus Christ in North Korea.
This Christmas - just like any other day in the year - there are no festive lights in the streets of Pyongyang. The city is largely shrouded in darkness. North Korea is the only country in the world where the Cold War is not yet over, and one of the few countries in which it is not permitted to celebrate Christmas at all.
Yet even here, Christians find ways to celebrate Christmas. There is an active underground Church which celebrates the birth of Christ in their hearts.
"But, of course, Christians do reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ," says brother Simon, who coordinates the work of Open Doors - an international Christian ministry which strengthens and encourages persecuted believers around the globe - from a secret location. "Only they can`t just go along to church to sing or listen to a sermon. They can`t even visit one another to read the Bible together. Being a Christian in North Korea is very lonely."
Simon`s thoughts turn to Sundays in North Korea. It happens only sporadically that Christians think it is safe enough to meet together in small groups. Usually gatherings consist of only two people.
Simon notes: "For example, a Christian goes and sits on a bench in the park. Another Christian comes and sits next to him. Sometimes it is dangerous even to speak to one another, but they know they are both Christians, and at such a time, this is enough. If there is no one around, they may be able to share a Bible verse which they have learned by heart and briefly say something about it. They also share prayer topics with each other. Then they leave one another and go and look for Christians in some other part of their town. This continues throughout Sunday. A cell group usually consists of fewer than 20 Christians who encourage and strengthen one another in this way. Besides this, there are one-to-one meetings in people`s homes."
Christmas, too, is celebrated in this way. There are no Christmas services for believers in North Korea, but a meeting with another Christian.
"Christmas is mainly celebrated in the heart of the Christian," says Simon. "Only if the whole family has turned to Christ is it possible to have something like a real gathering. For fear of retribution it is necessary to keep your faith hidden from the neighbors. It is sometimes possible to hold a meeting in remote areas with a group of 10 to 20 people. Very occasionally, it is possible for Christians to go unobtrusively into the mountains and to hold a `service` at a secret location. Then there might be as many as 60 or 70 North Koreans gathered together."
Just like on other days of the year, at Christmas time there will be Christians who perish in the death camps of North Korea, ranked No. 1 on the Open Doors World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the greatest persecution. The state is working hard to wipe out Christianity. Nowhere in the world is such a high price paid as in this country with its tyrannical regime. Besides this, in both North Korea and in China, North Koreans are regularly arrested. They are tortured to death or thrown into labor camps.
Despite all this, the Church is growing, Simon states on the basis of information from his networks. This is mainly due to refugees who come to faith in China and then return.
Over 2,000 years ago, God`s Son came to the world. Because of His sacrifice on the cross, there is still hope for North Korea. This hope is living in countless people who are prepared - if necessary this Christmas - to give their lives for their Lord.
To partner with Open Doors, call toll free at 888-5- BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our USA Web site at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org. For more information or to set up an interview, contact Jerry Dykstra at 616- 915-4117 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.