North Korea has sentenced a two-year-old boy to life in prison in a prison camp after the boy’s parents were found with a Bible.
The plight of the boy, whose entire family was also jailed, was revealed in the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report.
The publication also exposed multiple cases of North Koreans being killed for their Christianity, such as the execution by firing squad of a Christian woman and her grandson in 2011.
In another case, a member of the ruling party was executed in front of an audience of 3,000 at Hyesan airfield after they were found in possession of a Bible.
Other believers faced torture from pigeons, whereby they were suspended with their hands tied behind their backs, unable to sit or stand for days on end.
Worshipers at the Chilgol Protestant Church in Pyongyang. An American report has found that North Koreans are being killed for their Christianity
The report cites an estimate that up to 70,000 Christians are imprisoned for their faith under Kim Jong-Un’s regime, out of a possible population of 400,000.
“It was the most painful of all the tortures,” recalled one victim. “It was so painful that I felt it was better to die.”
Others were tortured with sleep deprivation.
A Christian woman in solitary confinement committed suicide in 2020 after prison guards refused to let her sleep, according to the report.
Other horrors endured by Christians include starvation, dehydration, contaminated food, beatings, and the forced adoption of dying positions for prolonged periods.
The report, which summarizes the findings of various non-governmental organizations, human rights groups and the UN, paints a disturbing picture of Christian life in North Korea.
He cites an estimate that up to 70,000 Christians are imprisoned for their faith under Kim Jong-Un’s regime, out of a possible population of 400,000.
North Korea ostensibly guarantees its people religious freedom in its constitution, with the regime pointing to the churches it has built in Pyongyang as proof.
But the publication said that these churches operate only as “exhibition works for foreigners.”
He cited the testimony of a defector, who said that people could be arrested for staying too long outside of churches and listening to music from inside, or even constantly walking past them.
Choristers at the church in Pyongyang. American Ray Cunningham visited the church and said: “I came away wondering how real this is.”
Chilgol Protestant Church in Pyongyang. North Korea highlights churches it has built in Pyongyang as ‘proof’ of its religious tolerance
Ray Cunningham, from the US state of Illinois, visited the Chilgol Protestant Church in Pyongyang during a service.
He said: ‘I left wondering how real this is.
Are the services regular? The church seems maintained, but is it a regular event? In society you see no evidence of religious activity, except Buddhism.
“It feels real, but like many things, it can be a spectacle for tourists. In this case, it could be a mix of showmanship and a few elderly Christians from the area.
He also pointed out something that stood out in the report: no children attend services.
“The congregation was made up of older men, apparently all over 65, and women over 40,” he said.
“What you didn’t see were children or young people of working age.”
The US State Department publication said many North Korean Christians hide their faith from their children.
He cited the finding of an NGO, Open Doors USA, which said: ‘A Christian is never safe.
“Children are encouraged to tell their teachers about any signs of faith in their parents’ home.”
Another NGO, Korea Future, said children were being taught at school about the “evil deeds” of Christian missionaries, including “rape, blood sucking, organ harvesting, murder and espionage.”
The report stated: “A defector told Korea Future that the government published graphic novels in which Christians tricked children into going to churches and took them down to the basement to draw blood.”
And while most of the cases of religious persecution documented by Korea Future targeted practitioners of shamanism, it was Christians who typically received the harshest punishments.
This is because they are perceived as a “hostile class” and a “serious threat to loyalty to the state,” according to the report.
For followers of shamanism, punishments range from six months in a forced labor camp to three or more years in a re-education center.
Meanwhile, Christians can be executed or face anywhere from 15 years to life in prison camp, imposed on up to three generations of the convicted person’s immediate family.
The report repeated the conclusion reached by Open Doors USA, that ‘life for Christians is a constant cauldron of pressure; capture or death is only a mistake away.”
Instead of religion, the Kim family demands worship for itself and its ideology of Juche, which means national self-reliance, the publication said.
These offered a “state-sponsored form of theology,” he said.
The report explains: “Although the ideology does not explicitly state that leaders are gods, they are described as ‘extraordinary beings’ capable of supernatural feats.”
One defector described being taught that the bullets would veer instead of hitting Kim Il-Sung, the country’s founder and Kim Jong-Un’s grandfather.
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