I ran across a report on Christianity in North Korea in the most unlikely place. One of the websites I frequent is Strategypage.com, a website that "provides quick, easy access to what is going on in military affairs. We cover armed forces world wide, as well as up to date reporting on wars and hotspots wherever they may be." It is a good clearing house to get facts from around the world, but it does not usually cover religious news. That is, unless they relate to military affairs. In this case, they provide a brief account of developments in the North Korean army:
September 5, 2007: The North Korean Army has started a special propaganda effort to discourage soldiers from practicing religion. There's apparently an outbreak of Christianity in the ranks, and it's so widespread that the generals are getting nervous.
As best I can tell, the Strategypage folks have contacts in military and intelligence services in the United States, and perhaps in other countries. They obviously do not always divulge such sources, but from what I have read they are generally reliable.
This would be a significant development. Although Christianity was widespread in North Korea prior to the Korean war, communism and the cult of their great leader has -- from what we can tell -- succeeded in largely stamping it out. I have seen reports placing the number of Christians from 5,000 to 12,000. But North Korea may be the most closed society on earth, perhaps in history, so any estimate is a shot in the dark. Here are some other recent items related to Christianity and North Korea:
* Rick Warren was invited to preach to 15,000 supposed Christians in a North Korean stadium. Despite some criticism, he accepted the invitation but last I heard had postponed the trip. The criticism is that the 15,000 will not be real Christians, that Warren's trip will give North Korean propaganda ammunition, or that he may be there to draw out real Christians for persecution. Pastor Warren, on the other hand, says he realizes that North Korea intends to use him, but that he will in fact be using them as the gospel will be preached to 15,000 who likely have never heard it before.
* Persecution of Christians continues in North Korea and is very intense, despite claims that there are officially sanctioned churches in the North. Christianity Today has a good interview with Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, author of Faith that Endures: The Essential Guide to the Persecuted Church. He tells about how he sent a non-Christian by a supposed North Korean, official church, to check it out on Easter Sunday. The "church" was closed and doors locked. He also provides details about how Christians in North Korea are persecuted.
* This blog includes a testimony from a North Korean who became a Christian and escaped. Very interesting to see how influential Chinese Christians could be in bringing revival to North Korea.