Leading evangelist Franklin Graham believes that President Donald Trump's meeting with North Korea Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Tuesday will benefit the highly persecuted Christian community in the isolated nation.
In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network Tuesday, the head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse humanitarian organization was asked if he thought Trump's meeting with Kim will "have the potential to ease some of the persecution on believers in North Korea."
The question comes as Open Doors USA has ranked North Korea for the past 16 years as the worst persecutor of Christians in the world as tens of thousands of believers have been killed or forced into prison camps for their faith.
"No question, no question," Graham, who has personally taken four humanitarian trips to North Korea, responded. "I think this meeting with Kim Jong Un and President Trump is huge. Yes, the Christians are going to benefit in North Korea as a result of President Donald J. Trump."
Graham, the son of Billy Graham, who has appeared to be one of many white evangelicals leaders personally engaging with the Trump administration, explained that he has spoken directly with Trump about North Korea.
"I have talked with him on several occasions about North Korea and I believe this is probably one of the most dangerous areas of the world and I encouraged him to pay attention to it," the 65-year-old said. "I am certainly glad that he and the rest of the administration are focusing on this region of the world."
Graham maintains that he is very optimistic about what the future has in store for the Korean peninsula. He added that if both sides can somehow work out some sort of concrete peace agreement, it could save the U.S. government billions by not having to send troops and armies to the region.
"We still maintain our armies on the border, billions of dollars have been spent [over the last 50 years] and there has been no movement. And, President Trump is the first president who is trying to resolve this issue," Graham said. "I commend him and just thank God that he has taken this direction and he is focusing on this."
"I think the North Koreans have been wanting to talk to the Americans for a long time," he added. "This is the first administration that they have been able to talk to directly like this. The North Koreans just want to be shown respect and other administrations would just brush them off like they were nothing. These are prideful people."
In the interview, Graham said that all Christians should pray for their political leaders, even the North Korean believers who are being persecuted by their own government leaders.
"I want the communist government to know that Christians are not their enemies, that they have the potential of being the very best citizens in the country because God commands all of us to pray for those in authority — whether we pray for our own president or the people in North Korea that are Christians should be praying for their leadership."
There was much speculation before Tuesday's meeting in Singapore whether or not Trump would bring up the issue of Christian persecution with Kim. During a press conference following the summit, Trump assured that the issue was indeed discussed to some extent.
"I brought it up, absolutely," Trump responded. "They will work on that. We did not put it down in the document. It will be worked on. Christians, yes."
"We brought it up," Trump reiterated. "Franklin Graham spent and spends a tremendous amount of time in North Korea. He has it close to his heart. It did come up and things will be happening."
Graham is not the only faith leader who has voiced optimism about the summit. Catholic leaders in South Korea have welcomed the meeting as a "surprise and joy."
"Peace is never attained once and for all, but must be built up ceaselessly," Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee Joong, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, said in a statement shared by Vatican News.
As the meeting resulted in a joint statement calling for "efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula," Apostolic Nuncio to Korea Archbishop Alfred Xuereb thanked God that "He listened to our prayers for reconciliation of the Korean people."
Not all prominent Christians are happy about the summit, as North Korean state media is reporting that the Kim regime is touting verbal concessions made by Trump that were not in the agreement.
Trump has been critized by a number of Christians for saying that Kim "loves his people," though Kim has a record of horrendous human rights abuses against his people.
"In declaring the North Korean threat over despite its nuclear program, Trump appears to be accepting an armed Pyongyang and suggesting the threat is resolved based on his 'special bond' with Kim alone," Evan McMullin, a 2016 independent candidate for president who was favored by many conservative Never Trumpers, wrote in a tweet. "He's dangerously putting his political interests ahead of national security."
As Trump also reportedly said Tuesday that the United States and South Korea will halt some joint military exercises, Fox News commentator Shepard Smith argued that the meeting was more beneficial to Kim than to the U.S.
"He wanted the photos, the seat at the table, he wanted the legitimacy that came with the event, the handshake with America's president," Smith said on the air Tuesday. "Kim Jong Un got it all, for actually doing nothing."
Smith suggested that such a meeting could provide a sense of legitimacy to a "regime that tortures and murders its own citizens, imprisons children for the actions of parents and grandparents, and a leader who has committed crimes against humanity."
Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton argued that although the meeting between Trump and Kim should not be celebrated, it was "necessary."
"You know, countries like Iran and Cuba and other two-bit rogue regimes don't have nuclear weapons, yet. They can't threaten the United States in that way. Once North Korea had nuclear weapons, once they have missiles that can deliver them to use, I would liken it to past presidents sitting down with Soviet dictators," Cotton told talk show host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday. "It's not something that we should celebrate. It's not a pretty sight. But it's a necessary part of the job to try to protect Americans from a terrible threat."