This is an abridged edition of International News prepared whilst the office of the Australian Prayer Network is closed to allow editorial staff to undertake overseas travel. Full editions of International News will resume onMonday 23rd March 2015.
Photos depict barbed wire fences surrounding its borders. Reality shows barbed oppression surrounds its citizens. They cower under constant surveillance of their movements and conversations. If they leave their country for more freedom, their families will be punished for their defection. Soldiers march, arms extended toward the horizon, violently kicking their legs toward the horizon in unity. The unfortunate ones the soldiers capture endure torture chambers where they must balance weights in a contorted bodily position, or be killed. Prisoners become victims of human experimentation, ideas stolen from Soviet Russia. This is North Korea today.
For the 30,000 Christian Believers bound in the country’s concentration camps, life is even harder. It is the hardest in the world, according to Open Doors. They are the prisoners of a war being waged on Christians in North Korea. Having only a few mouthfuls to eat twice a day, prisoners labour at assigned jobs for 15 hours in coalmines, where they also sleep. Others working in equally hard labour areas often have to sleep on concrete floors. Anyone can face death if found meeting with others, saying the name “Jesus,” possessing Scripture, or even bowing his or her head.
North Korea was once known as the Jerusalem of the East due to a revival that spread across the nation in 1907. The current regime has built a religion based on a distortion of Christianity. It even upholds its own ten commandments. Once strong Confucianists, now North Koreans are encouraged to worship Kim Il Sung as the father and Eternal President of the nation. For the twelfth year in a row, North Korea has again earned the status of being the most repressive nation on earth. It is also the world’s worst country that abuses human rights. The punishment is the same for citizens who defect and those who commit suicide.
Family members still remaining in North Korea will be punished. Indeed, killing one’s self is a crime against the state in North Korea. Years of abuse, though, still affect those who escape. The suicide rate of North Koreans now living in South Korea is very high. This year, poor crop production also threatens its citizens’ health. The North Korean government uses its finances to develop weapons to defend itself against the Christian West instead of feeding its citizens. But according to Eric Foley, of Seoul USA, still Christianity has advanced here in the “Hermit Kingdom” for the last 60 years.
North Korean Believers who’ve escaped to South Korea are striking back. They sneak converts to freedom. They smuggle Scripture sown into clothes. They smuggle audio Scripture, songs and teachings in hidden MP3 devices. They partner with mission groups to launch Bible-carrying balloons. This year, 70,000 balloons were launched into North Korean skies. GPS tracking of the balloons shows they fall in strategic locations. Indeed, North Korea’s hopes come only from the heavens.
* for a strengthening of faith for North Korean Christian Believers, those in concentration camps as well as those who hide.
* for protection of the ex-patriot Believers and their plans to get the gospel into North Korea
* that God’s mercy will release rain and prevent further tragedy in this land.
CHRISTIAN LIGHT IS FILLING COLOMBIA’S SPIRITUAL BLACK HOLE
For five decades, the South American country of Colombia has been at war with Marxist insurgents. Fighting can erupt at any time throughout scattered war zones, but that doesn’t stop an intrepid messenger of peace. For years, missionary Russell Stendal has taken Christian literature to all sides in the conflict: guerrillas, paramilitary, and government soldiers. He has forged friendships with all sides and his radio stations and solar-powered receivers pave the way. Stendal’s work has been portrayed in a film called “La Montana,” translated “The Mountain.”
Stendal tries to reach areas where it’s not possible to have church buildings or scheduled church services, and where it’s not possible to do normal missionary or evangelistic work. “And so we drop these radios on guerrilla camps, by parachute. We distribute them to soldiers; we distribute them to paramilitary forces,” Stendal told CBN News. Stendal has given out over 120,000 solar-powered radios. Former journalist Dario Silva has followed the conflict for years. He now pastors House on the Rock Church, one of Bogota’s larger churches, and sends aid to suffering families in rural Colombia.
But Silva said there’s a disconnect between Colombia’s megachurches and the country’s isolated and often persecuted Believers. “Megachurches are often not aware of the problems our brothers are going through.” Silva said that hardship and persecution have not kept the Gospel from reaching the remotest corners of Colombia. In fact, he remembers a guerrilla leader complaining: “Those Christians are the worst problem we have. We arrive at a remote part of the country where there is no electricity, no running water, no roads, or transportation, but there’s always some nut with a black book under his arm preaching about Jesus!”
In the mountains and jungles of southwest Colombia, guerrillas are still destroying churches, driving out Believers, and killing pastors. Open Doors reports that more pastors have been killed in Colombia than in any other democratic nation on earth. The southwest area of Colombia was home to Helmer, a FARC guerrilla commander known as Comandante Geronimo. “When I became a commander in the state of Cauca, I unleashed all that atheism against the people of God,” Helmer explained. “Expelling pastors, closing churches, killing evangelicals because they paid no attention to what we wanted them to do, which was to deny Jesus Christ, to deny God.”
But after years of persecuting Christians, Helmer realized he had failed. “The more I persecute them, the more they grow, get stronger, multiply. Then I said, ‘How is this? If I’m trying to wipe them out and they grow more, are fruitful, and make a lot of progress. Then I start to doubt,” Helmer said. Those doubts led Helmer to a personal encounter with the Jesus he was persecuting. Today his weapon is a Bible, and he urges people to follow Christ instead of Karl Marx.