On March 27, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) released a statement urging Christians everywhere to pray for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Evangelicals can surely unite on the issue of peace. But unfortunately, it seems the NAE’s call to prayer glosses over North Korea’s egregious human rights violations, including the persecution of Christians.
The statement reads:
We pray for wisdom for our political, diplomatic and military leaders as they work across differences toward a goal of peace, security and freedom. We pray that God will bless the efforts of citizens who seek to bridge the vast differences between our countries.
Decades of people-to-people contact between North Korea and the United States- through business, educational and other humanitarian exchanges – have put a human face on those who are sometimes characterized by one another as enemies. So, we pray with empathy and in a spirit of friendship, noting the image of God in every human being. However profound the differences between our governments, we do not view the North Korean people as our enemies. On the contrary, we desire only the best for the people of North Korea.
(You can read the full statement here.)
Signatories include the left-leaning Jim Wallis, founder and CEO of Sojourners, Robert Zachritz, Vice President of World Vision, Pastor Lee Younghoon, senior pastor of a megachurch in South Korea, as well as several Korean-American church leaders. Others include Kyle Healy, pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and more.
While Evangelicals differ in their approaches to justice and security, surely all agree the threats posed by North Korea exceeds the definition of “differences.” The NAE is correct in noting there are profound differences between the United States government and North Korea’s oppressive regime. North Korea’s government views the spread of Christianity as a pernicious, criminalizes evangelism, and tosses Christians into cruel labor camps where they are starved, beaten, and worse.
Writing at Providence magazine, Robert S. Kim noted, “North Korea’s efforts to eradicate Christianity in Pyongyang and elsewhere in its territory have been so ruthless and systematic that today few outside of Korea know that it was ever there.” American Evangelicals can’t imagine the horrors our fellow Christians face in North Korea, but we should work to understand their reality and highlight their plight.
I am thankful for the NAE’s well-intentioned call to pray for peace but am disappointed the statement is silent on Christians suffering under the oppressive regime.
As a Korean-American, I have witnessed the emotional pain of a divided Korean Peninsula. I’ve listened to my grandparents tell of their families separated by the Korean War. My grandparents routinely remind me to pray that one day Korea will unite as a peaceful nation state. I have met North Korean defectors and heard their stories of fear and torture experienced in labor camps. I have listened to fellow Christians testify of the pain and misery they faced because of their faith. Although it is emotionally distressing to hear of their suffering, it encourages me to know that they held even tighter to their faith in Jesus Christ.
I join the NAE in prayer for peace on the Korean Peninsula. But I also pray that North Korea’s government leaders are convicted of their sinful human rights abuses and that they find salvation in the Prince of Peace. I earnestly pray that God is with our fellow Christians persecuted by an oppressive regime. May the Lord watch over them, protect them, and reward them for their undaunted faith in the midst of persecution. May the Lord bless them and keep them as they spread the Gospel in North Korea.