Institute on Religion and Democracy Director Faith J.H. McDonnell has criticized former controversial NBA star Dennis Rodman for his recent visit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, highlighting that thousands of Christians are currently suffering horrible abuse in the reclusive country.
"From incarcerating Christians and political prisoners in gulags to executing those caught fleeing over the Chinese border; North Korea's despotic rulers have consistently held the title of worst oppressors in the world," McDonnell said in a statement.
Rodman, who said on ABC's Sunday morning interview that Kim Jong-Un is a "good guy" and a "friend," visited North Korea for a basketball exhibition last week. He has been criticized by the general media for his seemingly friendly relations with a leader whose country has openly declared America to be an enemy and where people are denied their human rights. Rodman even suggested that President Barack Obama needs to call Kim so they can avoid war.
"He's proud, his country likes him – not like him, love him, love him," Rodman declared. "Guess what, I love him. The guy's really awesome."
The former NBA star's remarks have left many wondering if Rodman is clueless about the true extent of North Korea's crimes against humanity, which include routine executions and imprisoning entire generations of families for disrespecting the leader.
When ABC reminded Rodman that 200,000 people are currently suffering in North Korea's brutal prison camps, the former NBA player pointed to America's own prison system.
"We don't have prison camps, guess what, this is all politics, right? … he don't want to do that… But you know what, it's more like it – I'm not like a diplomat, I don't want to do that…," Rodman said.
McDonnell responded: "Rodman's party antics with the North Korean dictator seem scripted for the parody cartoon 'Adventures of Kim Jong Un.' Rodman must function on a continuum stretching from clueless to cruel to celebrate with such a tyrant as his people languish behind bars."
The IRD director continued, "A nation's internal record of respect for human rights is the single most reliable predictor of that nation's external intentions and integrity."
Open Doors USA, a persecution watchdog group, has routinely placed North Korea at the very top of the world's biggest religious offenders.
"Nowhere else in the world is the persecution of Christians so intense. Even the possession of the Bible is enough to be killed or sent to a labor camp for life with your family," Open Doors says.
The organization revealed that between 200,000 and 400,000 Christians may be living in North Korea, but official figures are hard to come by since profession of faith must be kept a secret. As many as 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are believed to be living in concentration camps.
"Kim Jong-Un is a god and there cannot be any god besides him," a North Korea refugee told Open Doors of the situation inside the country. "Yes, there are church services in North Korea, but only when foreigners are present. The state calls up some locals to be present. There is no freedom of religion, speech or press in North Korea,"