WASHINGTON — The Kim regime in North Korea, which has imprisoned, tortured and even killed thousands of Christians, is terrified of the Gospel, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told North Korean freedom activists gathered on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
As North Korea continues to rank as the top persecutor of Christians in the world, Lankford and other GOP congressmen spoke during International Christian Concern's 2017 Capitol Hill advocacy day, which this year focused solely on the human rights abuses that have occurred under the Kim regime.
Lankford, the co-chair of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, approached the podium carrying his Congress members' Bible study Bible.
"It's amazing to me that when I walked up to the dais, I walked up holding this [Bible]," Lankford said. "If I did the same thing speaking in North Korea, this would give me a hard time. It would be longer if I handed it to you."
Although North Korea has some state-run front churches designed to have people think that religion is allowed in the communist country, the practice and worship of real Christianity and other real religions is illegal in North Korea.
The thousands of Christians who participate in the underground house church movement and Christians who evangelize run the risk of being arrested and thrown into labor camps and tortured along with other people of faith, political enemies of the Kim regime and those who advocate for freedom. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners have died since the Kim regime came to power in 1948.
"I'm astounded by that. I am astounded by that as a Christian myself. But I am astounded by that because [sharing the Gospel] attracts the fear of Kim Jong Un and that regime," Lankford said. "I think about the words that are in this book and how terrified they are of this book. I think about some of the things that it says."
Lankford continued by citing the passage of Matthew 22:37-40.
"The regime is terrified of statements like this, where Jesus said to them all, 'You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets,'" Lankford said. "The Kim regime is terrified of that statement. It's just a simple statement but here is what [God] demands — to be able to love God and to be able to love your neighbor."
He also cited 1 Timothy 2: "Paul writes to Timothy and he says to him, 'I encourage that prayers, entreaties, petitions and thanksgiving be made on behalf of all men — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and in dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.'"
Lankford summarized that "our first calling" of the Gospel is to be able to love our neighbor," and "to love God." He added that the calling from Paul tells people to "show respect and live quiet and dignified lives."
"That is the subversive text that the regime is terrified of and that is astounding to me," he added.
In a panel discussion later in the day, Greg Scarlatoiu, an expert on the human rights abuses in North Korea who has led in the publication of at least 24 reports and books on the subject, offered his explanation for why the Kim regime fears Christianity.
Scarlatoiu, who is also the executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, said that one of the largest reasons why the Kim regime has a disdain for Christianity is because of its threat to the regime's ability to control information.
"North Korea today is a post-communist, post industrial, kleptocratic dynasty that holds an absolute monopoly over political power at home. This is not a criminal kleptocratic cartel, this is an absolute monopoly. There are no competitors inside the country," he said. "The only competitor is, on the one hand, Christianity. And on the other hand, free, prosperous, democratic Republic of Korea [South Korea]."
"[Christianity] offers an alternative set of beliefs, an alternative way of life, a way of life that does not tolerate tyranny," he continued. "The North Korean regime fears Christianity because it offers a venue for the exchange of ideas. Remember, this regime has maintained its power through information control, through an absolute overwhelming level of coercion, control, surveillance and punishment that is executed by 270,000 agents in three eternal security agencies — a vast network of informers."
Open Doors USA has ranked North Korea as the No. 1 worst country in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians for 16 years in a row on its World Watch List.
"For those of us in government, it is our responsibility to press everywhere we can," Lankford said.
He suggested that Western governments should place travel restrictions on North Korean officials. He added that banks should be threatened with loss of U.S. business if they do business with North Korea. Additionally, he thinks there should be a ban on the sale of luxury goods to North Korean officials.
"While we are limited in the things that we can do, we should do all that we can do to be able to apply pressure to the leadership of North Korea until they have opened up one of the most basic human dignities — the right to be able to believe in your heart and to be able to pursue God," Lankford stated.