Casting Crowns to Return to North Korea for 'Friendship' Festival

Contemporary Christian band Casting Crowns will again participate in North Korea's annual Spring Friendship Arts Festival but this time won't be the only U.S. Christian group there performing.

The Grammy Award-winning band will be joined by the Annie Moses Band (AMB), a five-sibling ensemble whose ages range from ten to 24.

"In early December we received an official invitation from the North Korean government to perform in the Spring Friendship Arts Festival," AMB lead vocalist and violinist Annie Wolaver told The Christian Post on Friday.

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"We have been praying for many years that the Lord would open doors for us to tour overseas. We had some grand visions of playing Celtic jigs in the Scottish highlands, but instead He opened a door that was entirely unexpected," she reported.

Two years ago, Casting Crowns was invited to perform at the 25th Annual April Spring Arts Festival with help from Global Resource Services (GRS), which has worked in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea - the official name of North Korea - for more than a decade.

The annual Spring Arts Festival reportedly emphasizes artistic exchange and promotes peace and good will.

According to GRS, the band was well received and even drew praise from the vice chairman of the festival, Jang Chol-sun, who expressed his hope that groups like GRS, Casting Crowns and the people of North Korea can work together to bring unity and peace.

Notably, however, the North Korean government is known for having arguably the worst human rights record in the world. The majority of people there are reportedly cut off and isolated from the rest of the world, dependent on the totalitarian regime for their needs.

Furthermore, of the country's more than 23 million people, about 9 million of which are in need of urgent food assistance, according to the World Food Program.

Though critics of North Korea are skeptical about the true motive behind the North Korea's Spring Arts Festival, AMB is optimistic about how God will use them.

"We have been given an opportunity that few people in the world ever receive, and we are expectant to see what is in store," Wolaver said.

"Perhaps it is clichéd, but music is a powerful medium. The fact that we are going as family presents a picture, not just of what it means to be artistic, but what it means to be a family, an American, and a Christian," she added.

Coincidentally, this year's Spring Arts Festival takes place about one week before North Korea Freedom Week, when Christians and concerned citizens will pray for the freedom of North Koreans.

This year's festival will be held April 10-18 in North Korea's capital city, Pyongyang.

AMB will be leaving for North Korea on Easter Sunday.

Christian Post reporter Eric Young in San Francisco contributed to this article.

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