As North Korea prepares to celebrate the 100th birthday of late leader Kim il-Sung this weekend, Open Doors, an international Christian ministry serving persecuted believers, is urging people around the world to pray for those suffering in the impoverished, isolated nation.
Open Doors identified North Korea earlier this year as the very worst persecutor of Christians in its 2012 World Watch List. No laws exist to allow civilians to build churches or even worship at home – owning a Bible is a capital offense punishable by death. Christians are widely discriminated against and considered "spies of the West," according to the ministry.
In addition, North Koreans who try to flee the nation and escape as refugees to other countries are often hunted down and either executed or thrown in jail for life – along with their future generations.
According to an Open Doors press release, North Korean authorities have presented the Sunday, April 15 event as a day of great celebration, and posted a message to its people:
"On April 15th, known as 'Day of the Sun' to the Korean people, mass celebrations will take place in Pyongyang and other cities in the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea). These will be colorful and vibrant. Throughout the world from Lima to Tokyo meetings, seminars and events will take place. To be in Pyongyang on the Day of the Sun is simply a wonderful experience without parallel."
However, Open Doors USA President and CEO Dr. Carl Moeller explained that in effect, North Koreans are forced to worship their leaders, the late Kim il-Sung, Kim Jong-il and current ruler Kim Jong-un, as gods.
"So scrutiny of the estimated 200,000 to 400,000 brave underground Christians has increased during the last few months. Some have been thrown into prisons. There are 50,000 to 70,000 Christians of the estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people living under horrific conditions in those prisons. Also, many North Koreans are chronically malnourished and unemployed," Moeller said.
"But we know that the Christians living under the most brutal regime in the world will be celebrating the true 'Son' Jesus Christ in their hearts. Please show your solidarity with Christians there by praying and fasting for them this Sunday and beyond," he added.
The Christian organization is urging people to visit its website and sign up for hourly tweets and prayer material on Sunday and spread awareness about the grave persecution situation in North Korea.