Originally printed in the Dinuba Sentinel on Thursday, April 27 by Brandi Nuse-Villegas
I sit before the computer, not quite able to wrap my mind around what I’m about to share and not sure how to adequately express to our readers a reality so foreign to us as free Americans.
Laying aside debates about rights here in America, what would we agree is a basic human right that obviously every person should have?
Whatever comes to your mind, human beings in North Korea lack that right.
“There are virtually no personal freedoms in North Korea and no protection for universal human right,” stated the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
What does that mean?
“He wanted a better life for his family,” a North Korean man said about a victim of the North Korean government. “He risked his life and went to China. He found work there…He became a Christian. Before he went back, he was arrested by the Chinese police who sent him to the North Korean police…We heard about his torture…He kept his faith. They killed my brother”
Despite their constitution, North Korea is the most violently repressive country regarding religious freedom, seeing it as a threat to the communist ideology.
“There is no other country in the world where Christians are being persecuted in such a horrible and relentless way,” states Open Doors.
Fear, however, runs beyond religious persecution.
The government arbitrarily detains and horrifically tortures and executes its citizens, including children, in a large network of concentration camps, states the North Korea Freedom Coalition.
Torture includes starvation, humiliation, brutal forced labor, gas chambers, chemical and medical experimentation on prisoners, and other extreme human rights violations. Between 400,000 to 1 million people have reportedly died in these labor camps since 1972.
The reason is as simple as lack of food.
The country is still suffering famine and food shortages that hit in the 1990s due to natural disaster, an energy crisis from poor decision making, and an ideology of self-sufficiency, despite the fact that the country could not produce enough food to meet needs.
“NK has doctrine of self tolerance and has downgraded role of foreign trade,” said Amnesty International.
Two million or more North Koreans have died of starvation since 1995, despite the fact that the country received millions in food aid. About 4 in 10 children suffer chronic malnutrition, stated the Amnesty report, and one –third of mothers were malnourished and anemic.
People are being arrested and severely punished, even executed for food related crimes.
Child refugees reported that their schoolteachers had taken them to see public executions of those who had killed a cow for food, according to Amnesty.
“Normally there are cases of execution in public, several times a year. Before the execution, they were tortured. They were not given food, and the joints of bones are separated, and the bones are exposed, sticking out of skin. And they become light enough to carry by hand,” said a man imprisoned at ten with his family for a crime committed by his grandfather.
The people are also denied the right to leave their country, even in search of food and face torture and possible death in the prison or execution if returned. The international community is pleading with China to grant amnesty to refugees, who they commonly return to North Korea “without making an objective and informed decision that they would be protected against serious human rights abuses in North Korea.”
Several organizations received reports that pregnant women face possible forced abortions or infanticide of suspect “racially impure” infants.
This Sunday begins North Korea Freedom Week, April 26 to May 3.
I am calling on us to use our freedom to help North Koreans gain theirs.
A prayer vigil will be held on Thursday, May 1 (Holocaust Remembrance Day as well as National Day of Prayer), 6:30 p.m. at Cornerstone Garden (Road 70 and Ave. 416) in the prayer tent.
Open Doors also has prayer guides for each day of the week available on their website as well as a international prayer campaign, bulletins inserts, country information, and other resources at http://www.opendoorsusa.org.
People may also contact me at 305-2617 for prayer guides and/or other information.
Urge your congressman to sign a congressional letter to Chinese president Hu Jintao asking him to stop the forced return of refugees to North Korea.
NKFC encourages people to urge President Bush, Secretary Condelleza Rice, and their local representatives to give full funding of the N. Korea Human Rights Acts.
Get more information, including documentation from the US, UN, Amnesty, and many other organizations through the NKFC website at http://www.nkfreedom.org.