SANTA ANA, Calif. (BP) -- Christians in North Korea have asked for prayer as their country's leaders have heightened threats of war against South Korea and the United States, according to an April 4 Open Doors report.

"We know that our journey will not be an easy one, but we are sure that our faith, desperate hope and passionate desire will someday bear many fruit," a Christian believer in North Korea said, according to an Open Doors source in the country.

"No matter how difficult life is for us, we never blame or complain about our circumstances. God has promised us in the Bible that if we seek His Kingdom first, all other things will be given to us as well. Please pray for us," the believer said.

North Korea, having launched a long-range rocket in December followed by an underground nuclear test in February, escalated its rhetoric April 4 by warning its military is authorized to wage "cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified" nuclear strikes against the United States.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Pentagon is taking Pyongyang's threats seriously, sending ballistic missile defenses to Guam, a Western Pacific territory that is home to U.S. naval and air bases.

Open Doors, which received reports from underground Christians in North Korea describing a war-like atmosphere in the country, said April 4 that prayer for the already-persecuted believers in the communist nation is more important than ever.

Summarizing the message the North Korean people received from the "high command" recently, a Christian leader said, "We are to meet the decisive battle with a gun in one hand and a hammer in the other."

The believer added, "The military army, navy, air force troops, strategic rocket troops, the red guards and the red youth guards are already in combat mode.

"Urgent meetings are being held everywhere, regardless if it is day or night," the Christian said. "At those meetings, officials make decisions on what needs to happen in case war breaks out and everyone, including women, needs to be combat ready."

Open Doors sources in North Korea indicate that many cars on the roads are covered with camouflage nets and soldiers are wearing hats with camouflage dried branches.

"North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un released a statement to his people, saying that 'If war breaks out because of the actions of the U.S. and puppet South Korean's unpardonable behavior, they will end up with a disgraceful downfall, and our people will greet a brilliant new day of reunification. The day has come to show off the power of Military First and our great nation to the whole world,'" the Open Doors report said.

Despite their leader's words, the people of North Korea continue to suffer under the fanatical regime, which rules the destitute country of 24 million people with a proverbial iron fist and has a special hatred for Christians, according to Jerry Dykstra, a spokesman for the California-based Open Doors USA.

The people of North Korea fear war and its consequences, Open Doors said, with many people in a hurry to purchase emergency food supplies and daily goods. The prices of such goods, including food, are skyrocketing, a North Korean Christian said.

Amid the turmoil, North Korean Christians expressed gratitude for fellow believers around the world "for their continuous love and support," Open Doors said.

Dykstra called for increased prayers for North Korean believers in these days.

"Beneath the surface of the all the rhetoric of war and the possible launch of nuclear missiles are the suffering and persecution of the estimated 200,000 to 400,000 Christians in North Korea," he said.

"Also, an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 Christians are in harsh political prison camps," Dykstra said. "The government has been the No. 1 persecutor of Christians for 11 years in a row, according to the Open Doors 2013 World Watch List.

"We must respond now to the Christian leaders' request to pray for them. Pray for Kim Jong-Un, that God will work in his heart and he will pursue peace and not war," Dykstra said.

"Pray for wisdom for leaders in the United States, South Korea and China. Pray for Christians who are put in even more danger due to war preparations. Pray families will find food to feed their families. Finally, pray that no matter what happens Christians will remain strong in their faith."

Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.

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