As Carol noted earlier, a new UN report documenting the human rights atrocities in North Korea avers that the way its leaders treat their subjects “does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” Hence, to be imprisoned in a nation state as ruthless and impoverished as North Korea -- for evangelization, of all things -- must be even more terrifying. Christianity Today reports:
North Korea has arrested another Christian missionary—this time a 75-year-old Australian on his second trip to the country.
During a visit to North Korea's capital city Pyongyang on Wednesday, John Short was taken into custody, according to The New York Times. He had religious materials with him that had been translated into Korean.
"He won't be intimidated by the communists," his wife, Karen Short, told Reuters. Her husband even read his Bible in front of government guides on his first trip there. "I'm not upset, we're Christian missionaries, and we have tremendous support for what we do."
Short is the second missionary detained by North Korea in recent years. American missionary Kenneth Bae is currently serving his second year of his 15-year prison sentence, despite the U.S. government's efforts to call for his release. In addition to Bae, an 85-year-old Korean war veteran was also arrested in November, but authorities
released him about a month later.
If caught practicing Christianity -- or even owning a Bible -- North Koreans could be imprisoned, or worse. Indeed, here’s an excerpt from the recently released UN report referenced above, as flagged by Christianity Today:
The State considers the spread of Christianity a particularly serious threat, since it challenges ideologically the official personality cult and provides a platform for social and political organization and interaction outside the realm of the State. Apart from the few organized State-controlled churches, Christians are prohibited from practicing their religion and are persecuted. People caught practicing Christianity are subject to severe punishment in violation of the right to freedom of religion and the prohibition of religion discrimination.
Religious pluralism will never be tolerated in North Korea so long as Kim Jong Un is in charge. Nor will free expression or the free exercise of religion. Above all, the Kim regime understands that they must rule with an iron fist, keeping their subjects perpetually enslaved and frightened. Failing to do so merely breeds hope, and therefore dissent.
Of course, the devout Christian always feels compelled to follow the Gospel of Saint Matthew -- i.e., to “[go] and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew: 28:19). Quite rightly, this means treading untrodden ground, bringing the Word of God -- and the teachings of Jesus Christ -- to those who yearn to hear them.
But this sometimes comes at a cost, as John Short surely understands more than most.