North Korea (MNN) — North Korea has detained another Christian missionary.
Todd Nettleton, a spokesman with the Voice of the Martyrs USA, explains, “What we know right now is what’s being reported by Reuters and from Australian media outlets: the arrest or detention of an Australian Christian worker, a man named John Short, inside Pyongyang.”
Short, aged 75, was reportedly arrested on Feb. 16. Nettleton says, “He’s been a Gospel worker in Asia for a long period of time [and] has been based in Hong Kong decades. He’s worked a lot in Communist China. This is his second trip into North Korea. Apparently he was part of a tour group there.” Family members say he was found with Christian literature in his possession, which is what got the attention of North Korean authorities.
A resident of Hong Kong for the last 50 years, Short has already been interrogated while in detention. “We know that the North Koreans are very concerned about South Korean Christians doing work inside of North Korea. They would wonder, ‘Who helped you to translate these materials into the Korean language?’” (This is a blog post of the same title and content as the pamphlet Short had in his possession at the time of his arrest.)
There are two things to be concerned about, notes Nettleton. “One is: Australia, his home country, does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea. The other thing that’s concerning to me is the United Nations released a scathing report (comprehensive report of human rights abuses inside North Korea) about the human rights situation in North Korea.”
VOM sources say the Australian government is working on Short’s behalf through its embassy in South Korea and has also requested help from Sweden, which has an embassy in Pyongyang. However, those talks may be challenging, in light of the UN’s findings. “I’m sure the North Korean government is not feeling particularly friendly toward foreigners or westerners right now, so it’s not a good time to be detained inside North Korea.”
North Korea is considered the worst persecutor of Christians in the world. Although its constitution provides for freedom of religion, the practice of any non-state-sanctioned religious activity is prohibited. Nettleton explains, “Christianity really is a threat to the government of North Korea because the government is built on this idea of deifying the North Korean leaders. They teach the people to worship Kim Jong Un, Kim Il Sung, and Kim Jong Il.”
Possessing a Bible, saying the words “God” or “Jesus,” and meeting with other Christians all are punishable by death. Sound like overkill? Not to North Korea, Nettleton says, clarifying, “When you come in and teach that Jesus is the only way to salvation, it undermines the very foundation of the government of North Korea.”
That, coupled with the dismissive response about the report as a political plot by their enemies, and Short could be in real trouble. Interestingly, Short’s wife had a less than panicked response to her husband’s arrest. “Reuters quotes his wife as saying, ‘I’m not upset. We’re Christian missionaries. We have tremendous support for what we do,’” marvels Nettleton. He adds, “She says he won’t be bullied or intimidated by the communists there.”
Diplomacy may not succeed. “The sad reality is that the North Korean government is so cut off from the rest of the world, that they really don’t care what the rest of the world thinks,” says Nettleton, but that’s not the first line defense anyway. “We can pray for this Australian man; his name is John Short. We can pray for North Korean Christians.” Pray that God will protect and encourage him and give him opportunities to share Christ’s love.
If you are a Christian, remember as you read the report that among those facing these desperate conditions and abusive treatment, “They’re often sent to the very concentration camps that the United Nations reported on earlier this week, about the torture and the tragedy and the stomach-turning evil that goes on inside those camps. Thousands of the people who are in those camps are our Christian brothers and sisters.”