By BosNewsLife Asia Service
PYONGYANG/SEOUL (BosNewsLife)– North Korea’s “underground Christians” were “omitted” from a “historic” North-South church summit involving church leaders from South Korea and dozens of other countries in Geneva, Switzerland, a mission official complained Tuesday, August 12.
Reverend Eric Foley, CEO of South-Korea based “ministry Seoul USA”, called it “embarrassing” that Christians worshiping in secret in North Korea were overlooked at the recent gathering held under the auspices of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
The WCC-backed gathering in June saw the official Korea Christian Federation of North Korea and the National Council of Churches of South Korea join church leaders from 34 countries, said Foley, whose group supports North Korean underground Christians.
It was held on the 30th anniversary of the WCC’s Tozanso consultation on North-South church cooperation. “The omission of North Korean underground Christians at that time was understandable–almost no one outside of North Korea knew they even existed,” Foley explained.
“But today, when even a secular body like the United Nations excoriates North Korea for persecuting Christians, the fact that underground Christians did not even make the agenda of this global church gathering is bewildering.”
The WCC however calls itself “the broadest and most inclusive among the many organized expressions of the modern ecumenical movement, a movement whose goal is Christian unity,” representing denominations and church fellowship in more than 110 countries and territories.
Yet Foley argued that while the Geneva statement referred to human rights issues, it did not mention the plight of persecuted Christians in North Korea. Instead, the summit urged the Japanese government to “acknowledge the atrocities of military sexual slavery (comfort women),” to apologize, and to pay reparations.
“That no identical request is made on behalf of underground North Korean Christians is irresponsible,” Foley said.
Foley claims at least over 100,000 Christians worship underground in the Communist-run Asian nation, with more than 30,000 imprisoned in North Korea’s feared prison camps. Other groups have suggested even higher figures.
“It’s unlikely that North Korea would grant these concentration camp Christians furlough to travel to Geneva,” acknowledged Foley. “But South Korean Christian leaders are well aware of North Korean underground Christians who have defected to the South and shared their plight.”
Foley said he hopes Geneva delegates will heed the consultation’s call “to record and preserve for future generations the testimonies of the historical witnesses to the pain and suffering of the division of the Korean people.”
Seoul USA is working on the preservation of testimonies of those “omitted from the Geneva consultation: North Korea’s underground Christian martyrs,” he added. (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).
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