(Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)
With reports of extreme persecution and human rights abuses in North Korea, including a recent 400 page report by the U.N. exposing "unspeakable atrocities," Christians are wondering whether God has abandoned the country.
"Is God at work in North Korea? Because we don't see it," some have told Open Doors, a persecution watchdog group. The organization has listed North Korea as the most oppressive country in the world for Christians on its World Watch List for the past 12 years in a row now, and despite constant prayers for change, the situation only seems to be getting worse.
The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the DPRK said in its extensive report on Monday, which is to be formally presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 17, that "the gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world."
The various supporting documents, first-hand testimonies from victims and witnesses exposed "extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds," and other crimes being continuously committed by the government of Kim Jong Un.
Two North Korean refugees, identified as Hana and Jae-Hwa, contemplated deep questions of God's presence in the face of such persecution.
"People really question if God is at work in North Korea. How can they ask such a question?" Hana began. The refugee told Open Doors that she came to faith after someone secretly gave her a Bible in North Korea, and she began evangelizing others even though her husband warned her of the dangers behind such activities. She managed to turn a number of people to God, but had to leave for South Korea and leave her family behind when she was exposed.
"Of course God is at work! Of course prayers help. I am such a weak person. I hardly had any Bible knowledge, but God used me to explain the Gospel to others. Sometimes, God sent me on the road. I clothed my six-month-old baby, fastened him on the back and I walked for miles and miles and miles," Hana said.
"Until I saw some stranger and I knew this was the person I needed to talk to. Because of him or her God had sent me out on the road. I said what I needed to say and went home. Do you think that would be possible without God? Please, tell your friends that they need to continue to pray. God is answering their prayers."
She added that North Koreans used to actually believe that their former leader, Kim Il-Sung, was a god, until his death in 1994, which led to an "enormous spiritual thirst" among the population.
Hana explained that North Koreans do not become believers because they are convinced by words, but because they see the Gospel at work.
"God's spirit really transformed me. I smiled all day, even though I lived in terrible circumstances. I shared my food, even though I had so little. People saw God's Spirit at work in me," Hana continued.
Jae-Hwa added that believers should not be discouraged by the grim news that is coming out of the Pacific nation.
"God is at work everywhere. I came to faith in a safe house in China after I escaped North Korea. You would be amazed to see how the Spirit is at work in these safe houses. So many people come to faith. That's only possible thanks to you. We wouldn't even exist without your prayers," the refugee stressed.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, meanwhile, called for urgent action based on the U.N.'s report.
"We now need strong international leadership to follow up on the grave findings of the Commission of Inquiry," Pillay said on Tuesday. "I therefore call on the international community, in line with the report's recommendations, to use all the mechanisms at its disposal to ensure accountability, including referral to the International Criminal Court."