LONDON As crisis talks continue over North Koreas nuclear capability, refugees have given rare interviews about their perilous journey to escape the communist country that heads the list of the worst persecutors of Christians in the world, according to a U.K.-based group that serves the persecuted church.
Release International, which has been working undercover to help refugees find freedom and faith, explained that each year thousands of North Koreans flee the repressive regime of Kim Jong Il a leader who has cultivated a personality cult that borders on idolatry.
First they must brave the border guards who will shoot them on sight. Those who make it into China must continue their perilous journey along the so-called underground railroad, the group told U.K.-based Christian Today.
Their desire to escape is so great that they risk discovery by security forces and exploitation by human traffickers. Some are forced into slave labor, prostitution or marriage.
Release International is working with its partners to set up safe houses in China.
From her secret location, Suk, a farmer, explained: I escaped from North Korea five times twice I was captured by traffickers. [The last time,] two Chinese men appeared in front of us, holding knives. They tied us with ropes and took us to a cave in the mountains. They were traffickers. After a week I managed to escape.
RI also has come across extensive reports of how refugees are captured by Chinese security forces and sent back to North Korea to face brutal detention or death in one of dozens of labor camps. These have been described as death camps by human rights organizations.
It is known that some refugees become Christian through the work of the underground church in China. In addition, some feel called to return to North Korea as Christian missionaries, reports RI. Yet they know if they are caught preaching the gospel they will be sent to a labor camp or executed.
Peter, 22, has already had a spell behind bars in North Korea, and told RI: Once I was arrested and sent back. I was put in prison. I suffered forced labor for about ten months. A Christian woman was executed due to her faith in Jesus.
But despite the grave risk, Peter has his heart set on going back to his country. I strongly believe Gods plan is to train me and send me back to North Korea to evangelize my people, he said. Even though I may be put in prison or killed I will go.
Hannah, 21, asked for prayer when she too returns to share Jesus in North Korea. Pray that God will help me to plant a church in North Korea where people can praise the Lord, she stated.
Release Internationals CEO, Andy Dipper, testified: Their courage is astounding. Those who return know full well the brutality of the North Korean regime towards practicing Christians. Please pray for them and help Release International to give them the practical support they need.
For more information on the situation of persecution in North Korea, visit Release Internationals website www.releaseinternational.org.