According to a new report by the U.S. State Department, North Korea has carried out severe persecution against Christians, including one 2-year-old child who was sentenced to life in prison after his parents were caught with a Bible.
The finding was revealed in the State Department’s recently released 2022 International Religious Freedom Report, which highlighted Christian persecution in North Korea, including the imprisonment of an estimated 70,000 Christians.
In 2009, an entire family, including a 2-year-old child, was sentenced to life in prison for their faith and for possessing a Bible. Sentences for Christians in North Korea can range from 15 years to life in prison.
Korea Future, a nonprofit organization working on advancing human rights in North Korea, states that the country’s government persecutes people who practice religious rituals, own religious items, or associate with religious individuals, by subjecting them to arrest, detention, torture, forced labor, deportation or the denial of the right to life.
Additionally, a 2021 report by the organization, which includes interviews with 151 Christian women, highlighted the most common forms of mistreatment, including abuse of religious freedoms, forced labor, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, torture and deportation.
According to The Christian Post, North Korea’s educational materials are anti-religion and claim that Christian missionaries were committing “evil deeds,” including rape, organ harvesting and murder.
Although religious freedom is granted in North Korea’s constitution and churches based in Pyongyang are used to prove this guarantee, the State Department report argues these churches are actually “showpieces for foreigners.”
According to the report, followers of Shamanism also face punishments of several months in a forced labor camp or reeducation facility.
“[Officials] worked us hard without feeding us properly … I suffered from malnutrition and was sure I would not survive. I kept having diarrhea, even when I only drank water, and I weighed just 35 kilograms [77 pounds]. Today I weigh 60 kilograms [132 pounds], so I was like a skeleton back then,” one victim was quoted as saying.
Other individuals described or showed signs of being physically beaten, eating contaminated food, being coerced into uncomfortable positions for long periods and being verbally abused.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.