Release International, a ministry that supports Christians who are persecuted for their faith, is set to present a petition for religious freedom to the North Korean embassy in London on Jan. 20.
The petition will be presented after a staged funeral procession and prayer vigil which is meant to symbolize the death of freedom in North Korea. Release International hopes the petition will catalyze the British government into pressing for more religious freedom in North Korea.
The organization has gathered 48,000 signatures in response to the human rights situation in the communist country.
Release Chief Executive Andy Dipper told ChristianToday.com: “Under this notoriously repressive regime Christians are among those held in prison camps, which have been likened to concentration camps. They are held there simply because of their religious beliefs. Thousands more live out their faith in secret to avoid detection by the authorities.”
Christianity is banned in the closed country and the church has been forced underground. Christians face torture, imprisonment and even death for their faith.
The Rev. Eric Foley, co-founder and CEO of Seoul USA, told The Christian Post that his U.S.- based organization has been working with RI on the petition over the last year. He said they are very excited for what their sister organization is doing.
Foley said that petitions are effective in bringing to light the crimes and lack of religious freedoms in North Korea to western countries. Even though “no geo-political entity in the world wants to see North Korea collapse, which means that no geo-political entity holds North Korea accountable for its heinous crimes.”
While countries in the West do recognize that North Korea has many human rights violations that need to be addressed, Foley told CP there are very few attractive solutions. Therefore, the plight of North Koreans and North Korean Christians goes underpublicized.
Foley said that RI’s petition and those like it will continue to bring to the attention of Western governments like the U.S. and the U.K. that even “in the absence of political solutions we want to remain committed to pressuring North Korean government to embrace better treatment” of its citizens.
Some had hoped that with the recent regime change, following the death of Kim Jong-il, the plight of North Koreans would improve. But Foley said it’s “almost as if the world heaved a sigh of relief that nothing changed.” The media has been focused on the political and military aspects, and on whether or not the transition to the leadership of Kim’s son, Jong-un, would be successful.
Even in light of that, the world shouldn’t forget that prior to the transition and even now North Korea operates the largest network of concentration camps of any country, he lamented. Foley estimates that there are up to 30,000 Christians being held in those concentration camps.
For Seoul USA, the only real changes they have noted with the regime change is an intensification of crackdowns on dissenters. There are new curfews, and land mines being placed on the China-North Korean border to detect if people are trying to cross over. “The message is it’s business as usual in North Korea,” Foley said.
But because North Korea was “founded as a distortion of Christianity,” Foley said Christians have a special responsibility and opportunity to inform their governments about the truth of how North Korea operates.
“Petitions make it so that Christians around the world can protest the treatment of brothers and sisters in concentrations camps … we must never overlook [the] suffering of Christians inside North Korea, as well of suffering of other faiths,” Foley said.
The petition presentation at the end of the month marks the end of RI’s yearlong One Day campaign calling for an end to oppression in North Korea.
Through the campaign, they produced a DVD, “No Other God,” which features personal stories from refugees who have escaped the country.