North Korea is one of — if not the — greatest persecutor of the Christian faith, and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) believes it’s because dictator Kim Jong Un is “terrified” of the gospel message.
“It’s amazing to me that when I walked up to the dais, I walked up holding this [Bible],” Lankford said Wednesday, the Christian Post reported, acknowledging the brutal punishment he would likely face in North Korea for doing the same.
Lankford made the comments during an address at an International Christian Concern event on Capitol Hill.
For 16 years, Open Doors, an advocacy organization for persecuted Christians, has put North Korea at the top of its World Watch List because of the Kim regime’s “extreme persecution” of believers. Open Doors believes there are roughly 300,000 Christians in the Hermit Kingdom.
In 2014, the United Nations’ Commission of Inquiry determined the Kim regime to be guilty of crimes against humanity.
North Korean refugees repatriated from China or elsewhere often face intense questioning from Pyongyang about whether they’ve had any contact with Christian missionaries and those who have, the COI found, are met with harsher punishments, often being sent to political prison camps.
In addition, Kim’s regime has been known to punish three generations of a family because of one member being caught with a Bible, or expressing some other display of Christian faith.
In November 2013, the Hudson Institute reported, a handful of North Korean Christians were caught with Bibles, an outlawed book in the communist country. As a result, they were executed by firing squad.
Those executions were public and took place in seven cities across the nation, according to a local report. In one city, Wonsan, “eight people were tied to a stake at a local stadium, had their heads covered with white sacks and were shot with a machine gun.”
Thousands of people — including children — were forced to watch the gruesome executions.
“Due to ever-present surveillance, many pray with eyes open, and gathering for praise or fellowship is practically impossible,” Open Doors said in a statement. “Worship of the ruling Kim family is mandated for all citizens, and those who don’t comply (including Christians) are arrested, imprisoned, tortured, or killed.”
Lankford said he is “astounded” that the Christian message “attracts the fear of Kim Jong Un and that regime.”
“I think about the words that are in this book and how terrified they are of this book. I think about some of the things that it says,” the lawmaker said before quoting Scripture.
Lankford referenced Matthew 22:37-40.
“The regime is terrified of statements like this,” Lankford said, “where Jesus said to them all, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets.’”
The Oklahoma senator went on to reference 1 Timothy 2:1-3, which reads:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior.
Lankford called the Bible passages “subversive” texts that upend Kim’s demand for control.
Later, Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, explained Kim’s hatred for Christianity, the Post reported.
“North Korea today is a post-communist, post-industrial, kleptomaniac dynasty that holds an absolute monopoly over political power at home,” he said. “[T]he only competitor is, on the one hand, Christianity, and on the other hand, free, prosperous, democratic [North Korea].”
Christianity, Scarlatoiu continued, “offers an alternative set of beliefs, an alternative way of life, a way of life that does not tolerate tyranny. The North Korean regime fears Christianity because it offers a venue for the exchange of ideas.”
Lankford urged banks and American business leaders to cease doing any business with North Korea because “we should do all that we can do to be able to apply pressure to the leadership of North Korea until they have opened up one of the most basic human dignities — the right to be able to believe in your heart and to be able to pursue God.”
All of this comes as Pyongyang continues to conduct missile and nuclear tests, defying United Nations sanctions against the Kim regime.
President Donald Trump said Friday that the “problem” of an increasingly belligerent North Korea will be “solved.”
“It’s a big problem; it’s a world problem. It will be solved, you can bet on that,” the president told G7 Summit leaders before he entered a private meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.