In North Korea, Christianity is a “family secret” — a clandestine message some children never grow old enough to hear, according to one minister.
Lee Joo-Chan, a North Korean pastor now living in China, recently told persecution watchdog group Open Doors he grew up in the hermit kingdom without knowing his parents’ “secret”:
I knew my parents were different. Everybody called them ‘Communist parents,’ because they took care of the sick, the poor, and the needy. At night, they read from a secret book, which I wasn’t allowed to read from.
But I heard them whisper the words, and I knew it was their source of wisdom. I also knew that if I ever talked about this to someone else, our family would be taken away.
According to Open Doors’ World Watch List, North Korea is ranked as the No. 1 most dangerous place for Christians in the world.
Lee was able to escape North Korea and flee to China in the late 1990s. Years later, his mother, who also escaped, explained the Christian faith to him. She prayed for him and for the people of North Korea but was ultimately killed when she tried to return to her home country.
Three Reasons Children Don’t Know About Christianity
After secretly interviewing Christians in North Korea, Open Doors has discovered three reasons the faith rarely reaches the children.
All throughout the day, North Koreans are subjected to intense indoctrination. Through radio, television, newspapers and loudspeakers, they witness incessant praise of the reigning Kim family. In addition, through books and animated movies, children are taught that Christians are evil.
Lee told Open Doors he “was afraid every day for my life in North Korea.” But so often, children are different. They live their lives, much of the time without fear, unaware of their isolation from the rest of the world.
For that reason, parents don’t share their “secret” with their children, because they’re afraid they could unwittingly out themselves as believers.
There are thousands of children who have no one to teach them. In 2014, Arthur Han of Han-Schneider International Children’s Foundation, an organization for disadvantaged children based in Montebello, California, told CNN there were an estimated 20,000 orphaned children in North Korea.
“That number is not accurate because these orphans are in hiding, and there’s no way to get an accurate number,” he explained.
Last fall, author and humanitarian Johnnie Moore, a member of President Donald Trump’s faith advisory board, told IJR the White House “is already doing more by multiples” for religious freedom than previous administrations.
And earlier this week, evangelist Franklin Graham praised Trump for being “concerned about the religious freedom of people in other countries.”