The radical way to support Christians where they’re persecuted the most.
Brother Andrew, better known as “God’s Smuggler” and the founder of Open Doors, was known for arranging meetings with people the world regards as terrorists and enemies. Just because someone violently attacked the people of God or led violent campaigns didn’t mean Brother Andrew didn’t want to share the Gospel with him – in fact, it made him want to share the love of Jesus even more!
From guerrillas in Latin America to brutal militia leaders in Africa to the heads of terrorist organisations in the Middle East and the Gulf, Andrew insisted on meeting with them. He would tell them about Jesus, give them a Bible and pray for them. As he was fond of saying:
“Better a Bible than a bomb.”
The one person he really wanted to meet but was never able to was Osama bin Laden, the notorious leader of the Islamic extremist group Al Qaeda. However, Andrew prayed for him every day – and challenged others to do the same with a simple question: “Have you prayed today for Osama bin Laden?”
Though bin Laden was killed in 2011, and Brother Andrew passed away in 2022, this question should still challenge us to pray for those whom we call our enemies. After all, it echoes Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:44: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
If we were to take that command and Brother Andrew’s question seriously, who would we pray for today? How about Kim Jong Un, the brutal leader of North Korea, ranked No. 1 on the 2023 World Watch List?
Kim Jong Un is the third ruler of North Korea who has come from the Kim dynasty. His father, Kim Jong Il, led North Korea from 1994 to 2011. And Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, founded modern North Korea in 1948 – and built a cult of personality around the Kim family during his nearly 60-year rule. But it might surprise you to learn that this part of the Korean peninsula hasn’t always been known for brutality toward Christians. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Christianity flourished. In the first half of the 20th century, it was even called the “Jerusalem of the East”.
After World War II, Korea was split into two: the north was occupied by the Soviet Union, and the south was occupied by the Western Allies. Eventually, this led to the creation of the two-nation peninsula that continues: a communist North ruled by the Kim family; and a democratic South that is allied with much of the West.
When Kim Il Sung took control of North Korea in 1948, he came with a surprising background. Both of his parents were believed to be Christians – his mother was a Presbyterian deaconess and Kim Il Sung actually attended a Christian school where he played the organ. Yet, when Kim began to rule, the persecution of Christians began immediately – and brutally. Many North Korean priests were executed, and those Protestant leaders who didn’t flee to the South were executed or forced into the lowest social status. Most Christians who were able to do so fled to South Korea during the beginning of the Kim dynasty.
Ever since the persecution of Christians in North Korea has continued. The brutality is astonishing – with Bible distribution leading to public execution and horrific imprisonments in North Korea’s sadistic system of labour camps. Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un intensified the persecution of Christians with stricter border controls and more spies dispatched to China to infiltrate networks of missionaries. The regime conducted more random house searches and issued heavier punishments.
The two-pronged goal has remained the same: to stamp out any religious movement that might threaten the rule of the Kim family; and to remove the Christian presence in North Korea.
Despite North Korea’s harsh punishments, an underground Church in North Korea still stands. Open Doors estimates there are around 400 000 North Korean Christians who live and worship in secret.
“That’s a miracle,” says Brother Simon*, coordinator for Open Doors’ ministry to North Koreans. “God watches over the North Korean Church. But we should never forget the high price the Christians pay. North Korea truly is the place where faith costs the most.”
Brother Andrew’s challenge to us (and Jesus’ words) remains: Will we pray for this ruler responsible for the blood spill of so many Christians? And, of course, the answer is a hearty “yes”. Christians have prayed for their persecutors since the beginning, and Kim Jong Un is not the first (and won’t be the last) person who has tried to destroy God’s people.
Six ways to pray for North Korea
So how should we pray?
Our experts in the region who work with North Koreans through our secret networks in China have spent time considering this question. And they’ve given us six ways we can pray for Kim Jong Un right now.
- Pray for the heart, mind and soul of Kim Jong Un. It’s rare for the most severe persecutors to become believers, but it happens. Pray that Kim will finally see the truth.
- Pray for Kim’s family, wife, three children, and brother and sisters. Pray they will turn from their ways and rely on God for their salvation. Also, pray for their protection. Pray against the indoctrination of Kim’s children. Pray that God will protect their minds, hearts and souls.
- Pray that North Korea will soon abandon its evil policies. Pray for the protection of the Christians and other citizens of North Korea.
- Pray that North Korea’s elite will be saved or they will step down from their positions.
- Pray for the prayer movement inside and outside of North Korea. Pray that God’s Spirit will motivate and give strength to North Korean Christians so they can pray for their government and their country. Pray for healing.
- Also, pray that God will inspire millions of Jesus followers around the world to pray for Kim Jong Un, his family and his regime.
Brother Andrew said: “Our prayers can go where we cannot … there are no borders, no prison walls, no doors that are closed to us when we pray.” If we as Christians truly believe this, then what choice do we have but to fall to our knees, praying for Kim Jong Un and the country of North Korea?
Will you join us in this radical act? Learn more about North Korea here.
*Name changed for security reasons.