The North Korean missile crisis must be turned into a rallying cry for prayer for persecuted Christians in that country, says Release International, which supports Christians under pressure around the world. North Korea is staging a massive show of military might ahead of the Winter Olympics. It's brought forward its annual display of thousands of troops, tanks and missiles to February 8 - the day before the Olympics across the border in South Korea.
The muscle-flexing has been described as grandstanding in a crisis that could threaten nuclear war - but Release International says that crisis should be turned into a rallying cry for prayer for the persecuted.
"North Korea is probably the harshest persecutor of Christians on the face of the earth," says Release CEO Paul Robinson.
"People have been asking whether the crisis is making things worse for Christians in North Korea. But it is hard to imagine how things could get any worse. North Korea doesn't just persecute Christians - it executes them. This crisis should give us the impetus to pray for the persecuted in that country."
According to reliable estimates there are 100,000 Christians In North Korea. 30,000 have been rounded up into concentration camps, on charges of sedition -- conspiracy against the state. No Christian activity is tolerated other than for propaganda purposes. Today, state surveillance of Christians in North Korea has never been tighter.
"Our partners working daily with North Korean Christians see the current crisis as a sharp reminder to pray for them. The world may feel on a knife-edge with nuclear missiles pointing in every direction, but the threat of extermination is the daily reality for North Korean Christians," says Paul Robinson.
Release Partner Dr Eric Foley, CEO, Voice of the Martyrs, Korea, who works with North Korean refugees, says we must do more than pray for tensions to ease and a return to the status quo: "When those missiles are pointed at us, should we simply pray that things are returned to the way they were before? No! The status quo means Christians experience torture and imprisonment for the sake of their faith.
"The focus of the world should not simply be on restoring a situation that is stable for us but unacceptable for Christians. We should pray that it becomes possible for the first time in their lives for Christians in North Korea to practise their faith without recrimination.
"These missiles should remind us how little attention we pay to North Korean Christians. We need to repent and say, "Lord, forgive us for not being more attentive to our brothers and sisters in the most persecuting country on earth."
"As we are in danger, let us remember those who have lived in constant danger for more than 70 years. The international community may be on a knife's edge right now, but to be a Christian in North Korea is to live on that knife's edge."
In praying for North Korea, it can be tempting to pray that Kim Jung-Un is removed from power, but if Kim falls others will take his place, and that is not the way North Korean Christians are praying, says Dr Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs, Korea: "I have never encountered a North Korean Christian who has prayed for the regime to be overthrown - not once in 15 years. Underground Christians are praying that Kim Jong-Un will come to know Christ.
"Perhaps North Korean Christians know better than the rest of us, that it is not a change of government that will bring peace, but the entry of the Prince of Peace into our hearts. We should follow their lead and pray not for regime change, but for a change of the heart of the regime."
Through its international network of missions Release International serves persecuted Christians in more than 30 countries around the world, by: supporting pastors and Christian prisoners, and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.
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