Christian leaders from South and North Korea are expected to hold a joint prayer meeting together on June 12 at the North's border city of Kaesong, a reverend recently revealed, raising suspicions and skepticism among those working to fight injustice in the communist country.
The meeting, which will be conducted at a chapel inside the joint industrial complex in the city, will coincide with the anniversary of the Inter-Korean Summits that began in June 2000 between the leaders of the two countries.
The Rev. Han Gie-yang stated that officials from the North's Christian Federation of Korea – a state-controlled Protestant body of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea founded in 1946 – believes that the prayer meeting between church leaders would "help ease tensions and promote peace on the divided Korean Peninsula," according to The Korea Times.
But one author advocating for the rights of Christians in North Korea asserted that the upcoming prayer gathering would unfortunately be of no assistance, especially to the actual, authentic believers who are currently struggling in the country.
"It would be truly momentous if the delegations prayed together for the release of the 35,000 North Korean Christians who are currently being detained in the government-operated concentration camps operated by the North Korean government," said the Rev. Eric Foley, co-founder of Seoul USA, a ministry with offices in South Korea and the United States that supported the underground church of North Korea.
"I suspect that won't happen because, as has been meticulously documented by dozens of human rights organizations, Christian NGOs, and even the United States State Department each year in its annual report on religious liberties, the state-operated Christian organizations in North Korea serve a political, rather than a spiritual purpose."
He explained to The Christian Post that the North Korean government had a very careful screening process to appoint "believers" to their state-operated Christian organizations like CFK.
Only the most loyal party members were chosen, who then would serve a diplomatic function when religious dignitaries from outside the country would come to North Korea considering investment.
"Especially with the curtailment of government aid, South Korean churches are a massive customer base for the North Korean government," Foley shared.
Just last November, the Seoul-based National Council of Churches in Korea, sent 153 tons of flour to North Korea's Christian Federation through the Amity Foundation.
"The amount of aid provided by South Korean churches to North Korea is carefully guarded information, but it is a very significant amount-enough to make South Korean churches a major economic force with which the North Korean government must reckon through events like this."
For the former presidential scholar at Christian Theological Seminary, the upcoming prayer meeting that Rev. Han optimistically described following his trip to Shenyang where he met with North Korean officials of the CFK would regrettably be of no help.
"Once we receive and regard these professional government-appointed and trained diplomats as Christians, we betray our true Christian brothers and sisters in North Korea who receive torture and imprisonment even on mere suspicion of their faith-all from the government that hand-selects these supposedly Christian diplomats," the pastor of Doers Of The Word, a congregation of The Evangelical Church of North America, said.
Foley felt that the only way that the upcoming prayer meeting could be beneficial was if South Korean churches offered to provide aid only on the condition that the North Korean government release the 35,000 Christians currently being "ground down to dust" in their concentration camps.
"Then not only the North Korean government but also the whole world would have to stand up and take notice," The Whole Life Offering author stated.
"That is what we should be praying for on the day of the prayer summit."
Tensions have recently escalated between North and South Korea when the communist country announced plans to launch a rocket carrying a satellite next month to celebrate the 100th birthday of founder Kim Il-sung. A modified Unha-3 rocket would orbit between April 12 and 16.
The United States says the country's plans could violate an agreement reached with Washington last month to suspend nuclear tests, long-range missile launches and uranium enrichment – a deal that would in return resume food aid to the impoverished nation.
President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea said launching the satellite would be in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, reported The New York Times.
He believes that if North Korea pushes ahead with their satellite, the country will "lose a lot in the international community."