Worldwide Prayers Target 'Hell on Earth'

Christians and churches worldwide have kicked off a weeklong global prayer event for North Korea's spiritual change as part of the centennial anniversary of the Pyongyang Great Revival.

The South Korean Church urged believers worldwide to participate in the Global Week of Prayer for North Korea, June 25-July 1, when it declared 2007 as the International Year of Prayer for North Korea. The 2007 North Korea prayer event is particularly important because it occurs on the 100th year of the 1907 Pyongyang Great Revival – considered the base of Christianity in Korea.

"The contrast between the spiritual climate in North Korea today and one hundred years ago could not be starker," commented Stuart Windsor, Christian Solidarity Worldwide national director, in a statement.

"It is vital that the church awakens to the urgent need to pray for North Korea," he said.

The call to prayer is a response to serious concerns over the spiritual and physical conditions of North Korea.

Christians are systematically violently persecuted under the reclusive communist regime where citizens are forced to worship the personality cult revolving around current dictator Kim Jong-Il and his father, Kim Il-Sung.

North Korea was named the worst persecutor of Christians by Open Doors for the fifth straight year, topping the persecution watchdog ministry's annual World Watch List in 2007.

North Korea is also facing one of its biggest food shortages in the past decades with millions of people going hungry because of poor harvest and a 75 percent drop in donor aid, according to The Associated Press.

Thirty-seven percent of North Korean children under six are chronically malnourished and one-third of North Korean women are anemic and malnourished, reported World Food Program spokesman Mike Huggins, after returning from a trip to North Korea late last year.

"The human rights situation in North Korea is arguably the worst in the world," said Suzanne Scholte, chairman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, at a press conference in April.

"Living under the dictatorship of Kim Jong-Il, North Koreans live in what they describe as a 'hell on earth' of enslavement – cut off and isolated from the rest of the world and dependent on the regime as their source of information and for their needs."

In the 1990s, estimates indicated that some 2 million North Koreans died as a result of a severe famine coupled with the regime's mismanagement of foreign food aid. The government is accused of diverting food aid meant for citizens to its military.

"We pray that as the Church rises up on behalf of its beleaguered brothers and sisters, a tidal wave of prayer will sweep away the darkness and usher in the light and love of God once again," urged Windsor. "We hope that all Christian groups and individuals will respond to this call to pray."