Franklin Graham: North Korea Should Build Church for Christian Visitors

Prominent evangelist Franklin Graham has proposed that the Communist dictatorship of North Korea build a church for Christian visitors.

Graham wrote about the proposal in a prayer letter sent out on Monday and posted in full at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's website.

"I have visited North Korea several times, as my father and mother did before me, and I have prayed – along with many others – for any opportunity God might give to crack the door open even a little," wrote Graham.

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"On my last visit I proposed to North Korean officials that we build a new international church in Pyongyang, the capital, for foreign diplomats, businesspeople, and humanitarian teams who are based there."

According to Graham, he later met with North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations in New York and learned some possibly promising news regarding the issue.

"He informed me that the proposal has been received favorably by the country's new leader, Kim Jong Un," wrote Graham. "Of course, that doesn't mean we can start building. Even if official approval is eventually confirmed, we will have many steps to work through."

Graham's remarks come as North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un continues to make statements about the Korean peninsula being in a "state of war."

Reuters reported Wednesday that North Korea has barred South Korean workers from entering an industrial park jointly overseen by the two nations.

Graham is one of the few Americans who was allowed to preach in North Korea, having spoken in 2008 as part of a four-day trip to the country. As head of the charity organization Samaritan's Purse, Graham has overseen millions of dollars of aid go to the mostly impoverished civilian population of North Korea.

Open Doors USA, a persecution watchdog, has annually ranked the North Korean government as the worst persecutor of Christians in the world.

"Before the Japanese were driven out of the Korean peninsula in 1945, there were some 500,000 Christians in the North. Ten years later, all visible evidence of the church had disappeared," reads a January 2012 article on Open Doors' site.

"With the official appointment of Kim Jong-Un as the heir of his father Kim Jong-Il, North Korea has stepped up attempts to uncover religious activities with more house raids, more spies trained and dispatched for various operations including targeting South Korean Christians…"

Despite the persecution, the government allows for a few state-sponsored churches to exist. Further, some evangelists have been known to resort to more creative ways to spread the Gospel. Beginning about 10 years ago, North Korea Christian Association founder Lee Minbok began sending large balloons filled with thousands of Christian tracts across the North-South border.

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