The underground Christian body in North Korea has launched a prayer campaign for evangelization in the country in response to the government's recent missile testing and threat to attack its southern counterpart, South Korea.
Church leaders in the country say the situation is extremely unstable inside and urge North Korean Christians to become more united during this difficult time, according to Open Doors sources.
Not only is the country supposedly restarting its nuclear weapons program and threatening war against its neighbor, but North Korean authorities have reportedly intensified tactics to expose underground church members.
"Christians in North Korea are suffering terribly for their faith," said Open Doors USA president/CEO Carl Moeller. "Of the estimated 200,000 in political prison camps, an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 are Christians."
He added, "Now with the firing of several missiles and the on-going war footing, the scrutiny of believers has increased."
Open Doors ranked North Korea as the No. 1 persecutor of Christians for the seventh year in a row in its latest World Watch List. Earlier this month, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended that the State Department re-designate North Korea on its list of "countries of particular concern" (CPCs) for its systematic and egregious violations of religious freedom.
It is illegal to be a Christian or to believe in any faith in North Korea other than a semi-personality cult revolving around dictator Kim Jong-Il and his deceased father. Being discovered a Christian can result in imprisonment in labor camps, torture or even public execution.
Dictator Kim Jong-Il is said to be greatly afraid of the expansion of Christianity in North Korea. He reportedly attributes the fall of communism in Eastern Europe to the expansion of Christianity and fears he will be toppled if the religion grows in the country.
Moeller asks churches in the West to support North Korean Christians by keeping them in special prayer.
"We need to keep them in our prayers as they risk their lives for their faith," Moeller said. "What an awesome testimony that Christians inside North Korea have started a prayer campaign for evangelizing the entire country."
North Korea performed several nuclear tests on Monday and threatened on Wednesday to attack South Korea after it joined the United States' plan to check vessels suspected of carrying cargo to make weapons of mass destruction.
The international community has reacted with alarm and outrage upon hearing about North Korea's nuclear test. The U.N. Security Council is discussing how to punish Pyongyang, which has destabilized the whole region. Even China and Russia, both allies of North Korea, have denounced the nuclear tests. It is still unclear how far China and Russia are willing to go in punishing the communist state.
While world leaders hammer out a strategy to rein in the rogue dictator, Christians inside and outside of North Korea plan to pray that the gospel of peace can expand in the troubled country.
"We thank God there are so many people who are praying for our country," said a pastor inside North Korea to Open Doors. "Your prayers strengthen the Christians in North Korea."