This is the testimony of an Open Doors representative in China who regularly meets North Korean Christians who have escaped to China. Their name and the names of all those mentioned in the story have been withheld or changed for security purposes. “I know God has not abandoned North Korea. Too many people bear testimony of His saving work in North Korea. But most North Koreans live and die under the rule of the Kims and have never heard of a God who creates cares, and cherishes. God however makes a way for His servants. He miraculously opens doors and hearts to fulfil His great commission. In a private room of a restaurant, I meet a cautious man in his sixties. After prayer, he confides how he grew up in the area roaming the mountains like a ranger. Now he uses his skills to find refugees hiding in the woods.
He said, “Six months ago, I met a North Korean man. I was able to share the gospel with him and he came to faith. A month ago, I had heart problems and was near death. God miraculously healed me. The doctors couldn’t explain it.
Now, I provide food for three refugees. One of them is the man I helped six months ago. He now leads an underground church of sixteen believers.” I meet with Sister P in an old church that had sheltered North Korean refugees until one of them was arrested. “It was our duty to help them,” she declared. “Fortunately, God granted these refugees faith. During services, they sat near the exit so, if the police came, they could slip out. But one of the ladies was arrested during a Bible study. She disappeared, leaving her children with an abusive husband.
“With the support of your organisation we were able to take care of this poor family. Every morning, members of our congregation prayed with tears for our lost sister. The husband started to attend church. He transformed. He’s no longer an abusive alcoholic but a faithful servant and good father. He is very important for our local ministry now.” Recently his wife called from North Korea. After spending several years in a prison camp, she was released. “She hopes to escape to China soon,” Sister P continued. “Fifty per cent of inmates don’t survive their prison sentence. I’m sure our sister survived thanks to prayer.” Before me sits an extraordinary lady we call Mrs Shelter, because she risks her life to run one of Open Doors’ safe houses for North Korean refugees.
“Five years ago I was so sick I almost died,” she shared. “A pastor prayed for me. I was miraculously healed. God saved me and I know why. He wanted to use me for North Korean ministry. Ever since, I’ve realised I’m living on extra time. I don’t want to waste the days I’ve been given.” Living in a city where “people from the other side” regularly appear, her ministry is fruitful. “They wander the streets, looking for places to sleep. I approach them, offer them a free place to stay, and serve them until they go back or move on. “They want to know why I do this without asking anything in return. I share with them about God and the Bible. Many return as believers.”
The moment Mrs Shelter became involved in the work among North Koreans she also became a target for the Chinese authorities and North Korean government. She has had spies under her roof – humans trained to deceive, destroy and murder. “God grants me supernatural discernment. I can tell if the person is genuine or sent to spy. But I never shy away from serving. I treat the spies with as much love as I help real refugees. Some confessed at the end of their stay they were there to write a bad report about me back in North Korea, but they promised they would make it a positive one. ‘We don’t have your faith,’ they say, ‘but we’ve seen your life and character and want to resemble it’.”
ORDINARY PERSON IN THE STREET MORE TRUSTED THAN PRIESTS
The ordinary person in the street is more trusted than priests, according to new research. A poll by the research organisation, Ipsos MORI, investigating the most trusted job roles has found trust in clergy has dropped to 67% compared to 85% 30 years ago. The Veracity Index said professions more trusted than priests include doctors (89%), teachers (86%), judges (80%), scientists (79%), hairdressers (69%), police (68%) and the ordinary person in the street. It reported that trust in bankers had risen from 29% in 2011, to 37%, while priests are also apparently more trusted than television newsreaders (65%), charity chief executives (47%), business leaders (35%), estate agents (25%), government ministers (22%) and politicians (21%).
Ipsos MORI’s findings revealed clergy were the most trusted profession group in 1983, however, they are now the eighth-most trusted. Rev Canon Jonathan Ford, a vicar in Bury St Edmunds, said: “People have less to do with clergy now than they did 20 or 30 years ago because less people are in church and they’re less the person that you would turn to, necessarily, but, of course, probably the big one that has affected these figures is the issue around child abuse and the perceived inability of the church to response appropriately. “Obviously, we’re trying to increase our involvement in the community, trying to increase the amount of social engagement but each clergy person, male and female, just has to be honourable, hard-working and straightforward, and eventually people will begin to see that the clergy do these things.”
“Clergy are still used for signing passports and things like that so I think most people presume them to be trustworthy” Rev Ford said. Bobby Duffy, Director of the Social Research Institute at Ipsos MORI, said: “Public trust in politicians remains steadfastly low, at the very bottom of the list of professions alongside Journalists, Government Ministers and Estate Agents. “But it’s good to remind ourselves that this is not a “new crisis of trust” – from this long-running survey we can see that public trust has been an issue for politicians for at least the past 33 years. “The Clergy were the most trusted profession when we started the series in 1983 and have fallen behind seven other groups, including scientists and, for the first time in this latest survey, the ordinary man or woman in the street.
“But it’s not all bad news – some groups have increased their level of trust, including some who are significantly up over recent years, like civil servants. “This seems to be driven by younger groups being much more trusting, maybe reflecting the different context they’ve grown up in – a post-Yes Minister era. “And perhaps most notably public trust in the ordinary man or woman in the street is at the highest level we’ve ever recorded. “All generations have increased their level of trust – which is encouraging and important. We saw a big dip in trust in other people following the terrorist attacks in 2001, but we’re not seeing the same impact from recent events.”
The Global Foundation has welcomed the ground-breaking announcement, made in conjunction with its Rome roundtable meeting, that 400 of the world’s largest supermarket chains and consumer goods companies will work together to eradicate forced labour in their global supply chains. The global peak industry body, the Consumer Goods Forum, took part in the Foundation’s Rome Roundtable, with Archbishop Philip Freier, the head of the foundation’s advisory council, top Vatican officials and the UK Government’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner. Global Foundation secretary general and Rome roundtable convenor Steve Howard said: “Pope Francis has led a global push of faith leaders to stamp out the scourge of slavery and human trafficking.”
Mr Howard went on “The announcement by the leaders of some of the largest companies in the world that they will mount a major campaign to eradicate forced labour will have an enormous practical and symbolic impact across their global supply chains and with the community in general.” Mr Howard said the initiative highlighted the benefits of engagement between leaders of faith and business. “Hopefully, the Rome roundtable hosted by the Global Foundation can provide a model for future engagement, so that leaders of faiths and business can work together in partnership, on a common ethical basis, to solve major global issues, while promoting job creation and sustainable economic development.”
CHURCH OF ENGLAND BISHOPS LIKENED TO IRANS’S RELIGIOUS RULERS
Church of England bishops who sit in the Lords are considered to be the same as Iran’s religious rulers and should stop their “historical interference” in Scotland, a Scottish National Party (SNP) MP has claimed. Martin Docherty wants the 26 Lords Spiritual to stay out of Scottish civic and religious life, saying that parliament has to be more reflective of communities. He made the call as he outlined his concerns over the unelected chamber and the SNP’s desire to see it abolished. Moving a backbench business debate, Mr Docherty told the Commons: “If this Parliament is to work as an effective and legitimate legislator in the British state, its upper chamber should resemble less the congress of a Communist state and more the revising and advisory role of a Parliament of the 21st century.”
He added: “Appointees cover the great, and the so-called good, including large-scale donors to political parties and the former bigwigs of the country. “Of the peerage, let me turn specifically to a certain cadre – the archbishops and bishops of the established Church of England. “My direct challenge to them is that they have no place in the debating or voting, on the civic or religious life of Scotland.” Mr Docherty, MP for West Dunbartonshire, has tabled a motion proposing this change, noting: “It calls on those Lords Spiritual to desist in their well-documented, historical interference in the affairs of the community of Scotland since the times of our late and noble King David. Their interference must end if this Parliament is to truly reflect the broad kirk of representation and communities of this political state.”
BRITISH SUNDAY SCHOOLS WILL HAVE TO REGISTER UNDER GOVERNMENT PLANS
The head of the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) has confirmed churches will have to register Sunday schools if parliament approves government proposals aimed at tackling extremism.
There had been conflicting reports about whether classes held at church would be covered by the new laws. If passed the proposals would see anywhere offering care to a child for more than six hours a week having to register with Ofsted. But it had not been clear if Sunday school would be covered by that. Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, said they would have to be registered so the government “knows they’re there”. He said: “The government want Sunday schools, madrasas and after-school clubs to be registered. That won’t take a lot of time.”
“We won’t inspect every one of them, but we will know they exist. If there are concerns – if whistle blowers tell us there’s an issue – then we will go in” Sir Michael said. Consultation on the new laws has closed and they will soon be debated in parliament. Dr David Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, said: “These proposals amount to the state regulation of private religion. “Sunday schools in churches are publically advertised and in open access buildings. It’s also highly unlikely that extremist groups of concern are going to register with the government. “Sufficient laws already exist in relation to the health and safety and safeguarding of young people. It’s misconceived for the government to believe that these proposals will do anything to address the problem it legitimately seeks to solve.”
CHRISTIAN MP SAYS ZIMBABWE SUFFERING MOST SEVERE DROUGHT IN LIVING MEMORY
A Christian MP in Zimbabwe has said that his country is suffering the most severe drought in living memory. Eddie Cross, Christian and opposition Member of Parliament (Movement for Democratic Change) for Bulawayo South, said that El Nino, a special weather pattern, has meant little rainfall, leaving thousands of people unable to grow crops or harvest maize. He said previous droughts have not been this bad: “We’re in the grip of the most severe drought I think in living memory. “In South Africa they say the drought is the worst for 180 years. “The first and most important, urgent thing, is a shortage of water. “We’re going to face within the next two or three months if we don’t have heavy widespread rain… probably more than a million people who’re going to become internally displaced refugees.”
Unicef claims around 11 million children in eastern and Southern Africa are facing hunger and that six countries in southern and central Africa will be severely affected by this process, including Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Mr Cross also asked Christians to pray for ordinary Zimbabweans as food prices rise and crop harvest fail: “I think it’s principally leadership that we need in order to get the resources and then distribute them equitably throughout the country. “People should really pray for the ordinary people here because the situation is catastrophic.”
MAKE EASTER SAME DAY EVERY YEAR SAYS ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
The Archbishop of Canterbury has said Easter should be the same Sunday every year. Unlike other Christian celebrations like Christmas, the dates for Easter vary because it’s based on the positioning of the Moon. The Most Rev Justin Welby said he hopes to see Easter become a fixed date by the time he retires, although he conceded it might take up to a decade to happen. “I would expect between five and 10 years’ time – I wouldn’t expect it earlier than that not least because most people have probably printed their calendars for the next five years. “School holidays and so on are all fixed – it affects almost everything you do in the spring and summer. This year Easter Sunday falls on March 27, while next year it will fall on April 16, and in 2018 it will be on April 1.
CHRISTIAN MISSIONARY RELEASED BY AL QAEDA. HUSBAND REMAINS IN CAPTIVITY
An Australian missionary has been freed after she and her husband were kidnapped last month in Burkina Faso. Jocelyn and Ken Elliott, both in their 80s, were running a hospital in the West African country when they were taken by an al Qaeda linked group 3 weeks ago. It’s believed the couple had been held in neighbouring Niger. A spokesman for the country’s president said Mrs Elliot “was freed following mediation led by the president of Niger.” He added that efforts to release her husband, who worked as a surgeon, were being intensified. A statement released to Al Jazeera by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said the woman had been released because of guidance from its leaders “not to involve women in war”. The couple had been running a medical clinic in the town of Djibo for nearly four decades.