Kim Dae Jin recalls the day when, as a prisoner in a North Korean labor camp, an informant betrayed a small group of prisoners who were Christian, which to be was forbidden.
"I watched as they (prison officials) grabbed hold of my friend's arm so tightly that it died and had to be amputated," he said. "After that, he and the other Christians were sent to an even stricter camp. You do not get out of a camp like that alive."
Sadly, Kim's tale is all too common in North Korea's brutal regime. In its newly released annual report on Christian persecution, Open Doors notes that up to 70,000 Christians are being held in horrific conditions in the North Korean prison "gulag." In them, everyone, from small children to the elderly, is subject to sub-human treatment, often for simply believing in Jesus. more >>
A high or very high social hostility toward religion was reported in a third of the 198 countries and territories analyzed by the Pew Research Center in a report released on Tuesday, marking an increase in almost every major region around the world.
The study showed that the 33 percent hostility reported in 2012 represents a six-year peak, up from 29 percent in 2011 and 20 percent in mid-2007. The sharpest spike was reported in the Middle East and North Africa, which Pew attributed to the recent political revolutions sometimes referred to as the Arab Spring.
Pew noted that six countries in total were found to have very high social hostilities in 2012, but not in 2011: Syria, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand and Burma (Myanmar). Those nations join several others already on that list, the vast majority of them from Asia and Africa. At the same time, 38 percent, or 76 countries were found to have low levels of religious hostility in 2012, which is down from 87 (44 percent) countries the year before. more >>
Six evangelical Christians were shot to death at the weekend in El Salvador by gang members, local officials have reported.
The Christian men, whose ages ranged from 16 to 54, were killed in Ahuachapán State, a rural western region close to the Guatemala border.
According to Fox News Latino, those targeted were leaving a church service when gunfire broke out. Investigators have been unable to determine what motivated the shootings, though gang wars frequently occur in this part of the country. more >>
The number of Catholic priests, lay leaders, and missionaries assassinated increased last year, according to a report by an Italian Catholic organization. Twenty-two Catholic church leaders and faithful were murdered in 2013, reported the Fides News Agency of Rome.
This number was comprised of 19 priests, 1 nun, and two lay leaders. It is an increase from 2012, which had a total of 12 murders.
"As it has been for some time, Fides' list does not only include missionaries ad gentes in the strict sense, but all pastoral care workers who died violent deaths," reads a Fides article. "We do not propose to use the term 'martyrs', if not in its etymological meaning of 'witnesses' since it is up to the Church to judge their possible merits and also because of the [scarcity] of available information in most cases, with regard to their life and even the circumstances of their death." more >>
WASHINGTON – Nine out of the ten countries ranked the most oppressive for Christians to live in were due to Islamic extremism, according to Open Doors' annual World Watch List, which was released Wednesday.
With the exception of North Korea – ranked No. 1 for the 12th year in a row – every other country on the top 10 list had as its source of persecution, Islamic extremism. North Korea's persecution of Christians was due to communist oppression and dictatorial paranoia, explained Open Doors in its 2014 World Watch List. According to the report, the countries with the most extreme persecution besides North Korea are: Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran, and Yemen, respectively.
Open Doors announced the rankings for its 2014 World Watch List, which documented the 50 nations least tolerant of their Christian population, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The Christian persecution watchdog group's methodology involved measuring the level of Christian freedom found in five spheres of life: private, family, community, national, and church. A sixth sphere regarding degree of violence also factors in to the rankings. more >>
Asia Noreen Bibi, the first Pakistani woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010, thanked Pope Francis and all the churches praying for her and credited them with her survival after four-and-a-half years in prison.
"I am very grateful to all the churches that are praying for me and fighting for my freedom. If I am still alive, it is thanks to the strength that your prayers give me," Bibi wrote in a Christmas letter to Pope Francis. While Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010, the verdict must be upheld by a superior court, and many petitions have protested her imprisonment.
Bibi lamented the fact that, while many people have spoken and fought for her, it is "to no avail." Even though she is still in prison, she said, "I just want to trust the mercy of God, who can do everything, that all is possible." Bibi wrote that in her dire situation, "Only God will be able to free me." more >>