North Korean Underground Christians Omitted from Historic North-South Church Summit
Contact: Tim Dillmuth, Seoul USA
SEOUL, Korea, Aug. 12, 2014 /Christian Newswire
/ -- Representatives of the Korea Christian Federation of North Korea and the National Council of Churches of South Korea joined church leaders from 34 countries in Geneva, Switzerland earlier this summer under the auspices of the World Council of Churches for Bible study, communion, and pledges of further cooperation toward Korean unification. One group, however, was not present at the worship service: North Korean underground Christians.
The Rev. Eric Foley, CEO of Seoul USA, a South Korea-based ministry that supports underground North Korean Christians, calls the omission "embarrassing" in light of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry report on North Korean human rights violations released earlier this year. "The June Geneva gathering was held on the thirtieth anniversary of the World Council of Church's Tozanso consultation on North/South church cooperation," says Foley. "The omission of North Korean underground Christians at that time was understandable--almost no one outside of North Korea knew they even existed. But today, when even a secular body like the United Nations excoriates North Korea for persecuting Christians, the fact that underground Christians did not even make the agenda of this global church gathering is bewildering."
Foley notes that the North/South church summit in Geneva was not short on condemning other human rights violations. "The Geneva statement calls on the Japanese government to 'acknowledge the atrocities of military sexual slavery (comfort women),' to apologize, and to pay reparations. That no identical request is made on behalf of underground North Korean Christians is irresponsible."
Foley says that more than 100,000 Christians worship underground in North Korea, with more than 30,000 imprisoned in North Korea's infamous gulags. "It's unlikely that North Korea would grant these concentration camp Christians furlough to travel to Geneva," says Foley. "But South Korean Christian leaders are well aware of North Korean underground Christians who have defected to the South and shared their plight."
Foley hopes that the Geneva delegates will heed the consultation's call "to record and preserve for future generations the testimonies of the historical witnesses to the pain and suffering of the division of the Korean people." He says Seoul USA is committed to the preservation of the testimonies of those omitted from the Geneva consultation: North Korea's underground Christian martyrs.
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