This is a reality for more than 245 million Christians today. They often face physical violence towards themselves or loved ones or lose homes and jobs because of their faith in Jesus. But their burdens are not meant to be carried alone if we are able to show enough compassion and solidarity.
Christian persecution is intransigent and cruel in many parts of the world in this XXI Century. North Korea, China, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Mali, Somalia, are just a few among many places where Christians are persecuted, tortured and killed.
In many other places, such as Cuba or Vietnam, Christians are treated as second-class citizens, marginalized and discriminated against. Even in democratic countries where a rule of law prevails, campaigns are being carried out aimed at eradicating the idea of God from all aspects of public life, especially in his Christian concept, disregarding the inalienable right to religious freedom.
North Korea is among the worst cases of Christian persecution. The country has been No. 1 on Open Doors’ World Watch List —the annual list of the places in the world where it’s hardest to follow Jesus— for more than a decade. There are tens of thousands of Christians who are imprisoned or under arrest for their faith.
In spite of this cruel policy of repression, to “prove” they value freedom of religion, North Korea built four churches in the capital city of Pyongyang. But most observers say these “show churches” are in fact empty expressions of faith, and only exist to try to disguise North Korea’s brutal treatment of Christians. In one of them, the church leaders were comprised of North Korean intelligence officers who were baptized quickly and without any real knowledge of the Christian faith, and suddenly elevated to church leadership. On the other hand, materialistic indoctrination has carved itself so deeply into the minds of Koreans oppressed by a ruthless communist dictatorship that their views of reality have been cast into a purely materialistic mold, so the idea of an unseen God is incomprehensible for them.
However, when they have an encounter with Christian ideas, there is often a process of astonishment at facing a doctrine of peace, harmony and brotherly love that leads to conversion, but at the same time subjects them to the fear of being discovered and condemned to ruin, torture and death, a fate their unconverted relatives will also suffer.
One of these converts, who was forced to flee the country, named Choon-yei, confesses that upon entering the house of a Christian to learn more about that doctrine, "the cross in his home terrified me because I knew that being in a place with that symbol could cause me to be sent to a concentration camp".
Shortly after, North Korean security agents arrived at her sister's home, where she was staying. Still wearing her pajamas and slippers, Choon-yei sneaked out through the kitchen and ran to a nearby friend's house, where she borrowed clothes and shoes and lied to them –fearing they could denounce her– telling them that she had to leave so suddenly because her sister and brother-in-law had gotten into a fight.
Choon-yei's sister tried to stall the security agents, but they realized she was covering for her sister, detained her and called for reinforcements to round-up the entire neighborhood. But Choon-yei was far ahead of them and using her sister's ID card, she had boarded a bus heading away to the Chinese border where she used to conduct business in Changbai, on the Chinese side, and she was well known by border immigration officials.
However, this time her fate in China was quite different. The Chinese soon detained her and sold her to a sex trafficker who sold North Korean women to Chinese men as wives. Having no way to escape, Choon-yei and six other women had no choice but to submit to being sold to Chinese men.
Fortunately, Choon-yei's Chinese husband and family were kind to her, which is rare because North Korean wives are frequently abused by their Chinese husbands and treated as servants, practically as slaves. Despite her husband's kindness, Choon-yei tried and managed to scape and was able to go to South Korean and apply for asylum. Surprisingly, when her Chinese husband found she had escaped, learned of her plight and found where she was hiding, he did not denouce her but gave her money to bribe officials who would allow her passage outside of China.
This is just one case of hundreds of thousands, or millions, occurring in that region and other parts of the world. And yes, we can say millions, because just from both Iraq and Syria those who have been persecuted and those who have managed to flee to Turkey and Europe are counted at that high level.
In addition, we have other tragic places like Darfur, where the genocidal boot of the Sudanese Islamic regime had left nearly 300,000 people dead and more than 2 million displaced. And in late 2011, Sudan's government expelled all Christian ministries who were trying to assist the victims in the huge Darfur's refugees camps.
These are bare truths that the media of our troubled 21st century civilization rarely make known to the whole world. Wake up and do something! We are all responsible.