Tuesday, January 10, 2012

141. Remembering North Korea (plus Nigeria update)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 141 | Wed 11 Jan 2012

By Elizabeth Kendal

North Korea is an example of how quickly and totally circumstances can change. On 8 January 1907, 960 men registered for a week-long men's winter Bible Study conference in the First Church of Pyongyang. The evening sessions, which were open to the public, attracted up to 2000 each night. A worship service was held on the Sunday, 14 January 1907. After the preaching the session was opened up for prayer. Missionary Graham Lee had already asked a few men to be prepared to lead, but before they could do anything the entire congregation erupted in spontaneous prayer. Missionary Samuel Moffett noted that though the sound was like 'the falling of many waters' it was not chaotic, but absolutely harmonious. Even after the meeting ended and everyone was dismissed, multitudes remained on the site confessing their sins to one another in tears and deep repentance. The Great Korean Revival had begun and it swept Korea in much the same way that the Great Awakening had swept America and revivals had swept Wales. The event -- also known as the Korean Pentecost -- caused Pyongyang to be known as 'The Jerusalem of the East'. (See report by C. Hope Flinchbaugh)

In 1910 Korea was invaded, occupied and annexed by Japan. The intensive religious persecution suffered at the hand of the Japanese contributed to the forging of a strong Christian Korean nationalism. Whilst World War 2 saw the Japanese expelled, the north of the Korean Peninsula came under Soviet communist control. Hundreds of thousands of Christians fled to the US-controlled south to escape communist repression. After the Korean War (1950-53) ended with a ceasefire and the division of the nation into North and South along the 38th parallel, some 200 Christian congregations with some 300,000 believers subsequently disappeared from the North.

In line with its policy of Songun (Military First), North Korea's mismanaged and scarce resources are directed first to anyone with links to the military. While the system benefits the military, guaranteeing their loyalty, virtually everyone living outside of Pyongyang struggles to survive with virtually no food or electricity or anaesthetics and so on.

Today North Korea is regarded as the worst persecutor in the world. There is an 'underground church', but it is gravely imperilled. Possession of a Bible is treated as treason because only the Kim family may be worshipped. Witnessing Christians are publicly executed while their whole family, to three generations, is purged from society in Auschwitz-type concentration labour camps where starvation and unparalleled cruelty are the norm and life is short. Many tens of thousands of Christians are believed to be suffering in North Korea's 'Hidden Gulag'. (see case of Ri Hyon Ok)

North Korea is so tightly closed to the outside world that very little leaks in and even less leaks out. Radios and TVs are all pre-tuned for North Korean propaganda and brainwashing and the borders are tightly monitored. Even Western intelligence only learnt about the death of the 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong-il the same way local North Koreans did: via a North Korean news broadcast, two days later. Some analysts are warning we should expect a period of increased repression, complete with purges, as the regime of the 'Great Successor' Kim Jong-un consolidates.

In the absence of news, it is good to have some special dates in our diaries to help us remember North Korea and focus our prayers. For example: 8 January was the birthday of Kim Jong-un (the 'Great Successor'); 14 January, the anniversary of the Korean Pentecost; 27 July, the anniversary of the ceasefire (known as 'Victory Day' in North Korea) and 9 September, Independence Day. (See here for other significant dates.)


* God, who alone is Sovereign, will use Kim Jong-un for his own divine purpose. 'Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.' (Proverbs 19:21 ESV)

* the Holy Spirit will again visit North Korea with revival power:
- may the Spirit reach deep into the halls of power to set free those enslaved to and blinded by sin;
- may the Spirit reach broadly across the land so that multitudes amongst the destitute, starving, incarcerated, infirm, grief stricken and hopeless might find a Saviour who not only forgives sins and saves souls, but who answers prayers and for whom nothing is impossible. 'But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."' (Matthew 19:26 ESV)


On 14 January 1907 the Holy Spirit visited Pyongyang with revival power in an event that culminated in repentance and conversions on an unprecedented scale. As the birthplace of the Great Korean Revival, Pyongyang became known as 'The Jerusalem of the East'. Today the situation in North Korea is the exact opposite. The regime's policy of Songun (Military First) ensures that all military families are well provided for, securing their loyalty, while the situation beyond Pyongyang is appalling. Citizens must worship the Kim family. Possession of a Bible is treason. Many tens of thousands of Christians are incarcerated in North Korea's 'Hidden Gulag'. Please pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in North Korea. Pray for deliverance from evil.



On Monday 2 January Boko Haram issued an ultimatum giving Southerners and Christians three days to leave the North or face further violence (see RLPB 140). They are fulfilling their threat. On 4 January bombs exploded in Maiduguri (Borno) and Damaturu (Yobe) killing 20. On 5 January Boko Haram shot dead three ethnic Igbo southerners in the north-eastern state of Adamawa. The next day they attacked the families as they met to make funeral arrangements, killing a further 12 and wounding more than 30. Also on Friday 6 January Boko Haram gunmen burst into Christ Apostolic Church in Adamawa and killed 12 young Christians attending a youth leadership training program. Deeper Life Bible Church in Gombe city, Gombe State, was also attacked: nine were killed. Christian Igbo traders holding a prayer meeting in the town hall before the start of trade were attacked: 20 were killed. On Saturday 7 January two Christian students were gunned down at the University of Maiduguri in Borno. The killings continue.

Retaliation and Polarisation. On Saturday 7 January some 2000 southerners armed with axes and knives went on a rampage in Sapele in south-eastern Delta State, sacking the Hausa (ethnic Muslim) Quarter wounding more than 50. An Igbo revolutionary and counter-terrorism group known as Ogbunigwe Ndigbo has reportedly issued the Muslims an ultimatum giving them two weeks to leave the south. Northerners (mostly ethnic Muslims) are fleeing the south-east. On Monday 9 January a mosque was torched in the southern city of Benin, capital of Edo State. The next day another mosque and an Islamic school were torched in Benin in an attack that left five dead and six wounded. Arrests have been made. The violence is beginning to spiral.

Furthermore President Jonathan has admitted there are Boko Haram sympathisers in the executive and legislative arms of government, as well as in the police, the military and other security agencies. He says he now regards the situation as more dangerous and more challenging than during the Biafra civil war (1967-70). Please pray for Nigeria.