Shining the Light on North Korea

The worst country in the world for a person to wake up in the morning is North Korea, where all of the citizens that are not part of the totalitarian state government apparatus are prisoners. They are devoid of even the most foundational human freedoms that God intended for all human beings. Each of us was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), deserving respect and protection.

It is my sincere prayer and hope that as followers of Christ we would be faithful in shedding light on this horrific situation and the plight of those who are suffering in North Korea. We can only trust that our efforts will help usher in desperately needed changes to benefit those who are deprived of the most basic of human rights.

Every aspect of life—including spiritual life—has diminished and declined under Kim Jong Il's disgraceful rule. He and his mobster government have suppressed North Korea's once vibrant religious and intellectual life. The North Korean military and secret police have imprisoned, starved or executed anyone caught or suspected of engaging in religious activity.

Tragically, even those North Koreans who manage to beat the odds and escape the tyranny of Kim Jong Il find themselves the victims of another tyranny—China's refusal to acknowledge their refugee status. Instead of helping those who cross the border into China attempting desperately to escape the brutality of Kim Jong Il, the Chinese government too often returns these people to North Korea against their will, against the will of the United Nations, and against the will and the understanding of the entire civilized world. Once these individuals are returned to North Korea, they are subjected to every imaginable punishment, from rape to starvation to lives of imprisonment, to torture and to execution.

In a resolution on this issue adopted at the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, N.C., Southern Baptists pledged their solidarity with the citizens of North Korea, especially that country's refugees "who are persecuted for conscience sake."

Kim Jong Il's reign of terror cannot stand against the truth forever. When North Koreans increasingly learn of the freedoms and opportunities that are available elsewhere, and when they learn that there are those in the free world who are speaking up for them and praying for them, they will know there are voices being raised up on their behalf, saying, "Let my people go." The day will come when Kim Jong Il's personality cult will crumble like a house built on sand, and the people of North Korea will begin to enjoy the dignity of their humanity once again.

I am grateful that North Korea recently indicated it had shut down its nuclear program. I hope it is an honest report. I commend President Bush and all those who helped make that happen. But make no mistake, until all the people of North Korea are treated as human beings rather than as animals, until they are treated as free people instead of serfs in Kim Jong Il's feudal kingdom, we will not have finished the job.

The United States and every civilized nation in the world must make human rights an inextricable part of their foreign policy, so that economic and military agreements and decisions are never separated from basic human rights.

Some may say that in today's global economy the United States cannot afford to exercise such punitive economic measures; for the sake of those suffering, I say we cannot afford to do otherwise.

I, for one, refuse to buy any kind of peace with Kim Jong Il at the price of North Korean blood, suffering and lives.

God is not ignorant of the plight of those oppressed by the tyrannical North Korean government. He hears their cries. His protection extends to those who suffer under such brutality and who have no voice (Psa. 72:12-14). May He help us to rally a great movement as we sensitize the conscience of America and the world to the abuses that are occurring in North Korea and upon North Korean refugees by China. May that movement that will end up in the liberation of these people begin here and may it begin with us.

Please allow me to close with a slogan that is laden with deep emotion for tens of millions of Americans because of its indelible association with our own struggle against tyranny and injustice in America in the middle of the last century: "We shall overcome!"

Dr. Richard Land is president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention's official entity assigned to address social, moral, and ethical concerns, with particular attention to their impact on American families and their faith.