Written by Elisabeth Gail.
If you have lived in Australia for a while, I’m sure you’ve had some interaction with Christianity. Maybe you went to a Christian high school or had a friend or family member who went to church. To most Australians belief in God is the belief in a fairy tale, a story naïve people hold onto to make them feel better. It is the religion of a generation past or an institution built on uncomfortable conformity. But there is more to Christianity than what you know or have experienced.
Christianity is a religion, a faith, that lives all around the world, growing and breathing life into its darkest corners. It is a lifeline for so many who know nothing but poverty and pain. It is the reason some people are still breathing, and the reason some no longer can.
Many Christians around the world face extreme persecution. Currently, the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian, to believe in Jesus, is North Korea (Open Doors Australia 2019). North Korean citizens are indoctrinated from an early age to worship Kim Jong-Un and are given no freedom to believe, or even explore, anything else. If caught talking about God, owning a bible, or even praying, individuals are sent to prison and tortured, or else killed on the spot.
While in a North Korean prison, a young boy named Hyo ‘was told to write down information, and when he didn’t, they would bend his fingers back and beat him with sticks. […] They hung him up by his feet from the ceiling and beat him with clubs and later with red hot pipes until he was unconscious.’ Hyo was able to escape Korea only to be put into another prison in China (Ross 2017).
Despite the horrific unescapable persecution they face, there are 300,000 Christians living and worshiping God in North Korea. They risk everything, hiding bibles in their backyards and praying silently in the dark of night, because of how real God is in their lives and how important He is.
In the Bible, in the book of Matthew, Jesus says, ‘You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved’ (Matthew 10:22 NIV).
Christianity is not a happy-go-lucky faith; pain and persecution are imminent for all those who believe in Jesus Christ. This is made clear in the Bible and can be seen even more clearly in how the world responds to Christians and to God. It’s not just in North Korea that people face this. In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, India, Syria, Egypt, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and many more countries, Christians face imprisonment or death for believing and sharing the message of the Bible. Even here in Australia, many hate Christians and are happy to see them slandered and put down because of their faith.
Why do people withstand this? What is the point of believing in an invisible God if it means such pain? First of all, God is not as invisible as you may think. Hyo saw God working in his situation. While in prison, he constantly prayed, ‘God if you really exist, let me survive this. Rescue me.’ (Ross 2017). After a long time of imprisonment, torture, and pain, God answered Hyo’s prayer:
One day he was led into an office. Hyo believed he was going to be sent back to North Korea. Instead, they told him he was to be released. Hyo realised God heard his prayers and gave his life to the Lord. The God who had seen him when he was sleeping under trains, who had sent people to help him, who put him in contact with his father again and who had protected him in prison. The God who was now revealing himself as his Saviour. (Ross 2017)
While Hyo eventually made it to safety, not all are as lucky. Some Christians are faced with the cold barrel of a gun and a decision: renounce their faith or die. Many choose death because they believe—they know—that there is more to that decision than the here and now.
For Christians, there is more to life than this world. There is something greater, something worth the pain of living and the tragedy of dying. Like Jesus said in the above verse from Matthew, ‘…the one who stands firm to the end will be saved’ (Matthew 10:22 NIV). Christians have hope in another life to come, a life where ‘[t]here will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain’ (Revelations 21:4 NIV). Because of this hope, they are able to withstand the fiercest of enemies and the most brutal suffering.
If you are part of Deakin University and interested in learning more about Christianity, there is a Christian club on campus that runs various events every week, and whose members would love to meet you, talk with you, and answer your questions. To learn more about Deakin Christian Union or to get in contact please visit the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/deakincu/
2019, World Watch List: North Korea, Open Doors Australia, retrieved 30 March 2019, <https://www.opendoors.org.au/persecuted-christians/world-watch-list/north-korea>.
Matthew 10:22, Holy Bible: New International Version.
Revelations 21:4, Holy Bible: New International Version.
Ross, B 2017, Lee and Hyo Joo-Chan From North Korea: Part 2, Open Doors Blog, 27 February, retrieved 30 March 2019, <https://www.opendoors.org.au/persecuted-christians/blog/lee-and-hyo-joo-chan-from-north-korea-part-2/>.