The Story: Christians around the world are setting aside April 15 as a day of prayer and fasting for the country of North Korea and the believers who live there.
The Background: According to Open Doors, this Sunday all of North Korea will celebrate the "Day of the Sun" in honor of Kim Il-Sung's 100th birthday. To the outside world, the picture will be one of prosperity and wealth; that North Korea is a great place to live under their caring leaders. But outside of the media's eye the vast majority will continue to quietly suffer extreme poverty and starvation.
The organization is encouraging Christians to show our solidarity by praying for believers in North Korea and taking a day off of food---or perhaps one meal---to remember the suffering of the North Korean people.
Why It Matters: North Korea is "among the world's most vicious religious persecutors," says Doug Bandow, a Senior Fellow in International Religious Persecution at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. "For the Kim cult is akin to a religion, as evidenced by the exaggerated grief expressed over Kim Jong-il's death."
Even worse in Pyongyang's eyes is the rise of Christianity within the North's boundaries. Although no accurate count of Christians is possible, the Pew Forum estimates 480,000, most of them Protestants. The regime targets the faithful: "In recent years, police and security agency offices have infiltrated Protestant churches in China, begun training police and soldiers about the dangers of religion, and set up fake prayer meetings to catch worshippers." The penalty for law-breakers is high. Stated the Commission: "Anyone caught distributing religious materials, holding unapproved religious gatherings, or having ongoing contact with overseas religious groups is subject to severe punishment ranging from labor camp imprisonment to execution." One North Korean believer told Open Doors: "Since Kim Jong-un came closer to the helm, North Korea has stepped up its attempts to uncover any religious activities."As Bandow notes, the greatest threat to North Korea's communist system is not internal strife, but the people's transfer of allegiance to a different God, one who created human beings in his image and values them accordingly.