An Appeal to Pope Francis: Address the Widespread Suffering and Human Rights Abuses in North Korea!
Francis of Assisi of the 13th century, in his deliberate choice of poverty, his care of lepers and identification in Christ’s name with every kind of outcast of medieval Italy, virtually revolutionized an impotent church that had fallen into decay.
Our 21st century Pope Francis, during his visit to the Korean Peninsula, will reportedly focus to a large degree on the poor, disabled and marginalized, as has been the case in his travels elsewhere in the world. We celebrate such an emphasis! Just as the pope has spoken out forcefully in recent days to protect beleaguered Iraqi Chaldean Catholics, Syrian Orthodox and other religious minorities threatened with genocide by terrorist ISIS forces in Iraq, so we respectfully urge Pope Francis to publicly take up the issue of the egregiously harassed catacombs Christians of North Korea.
Annually for nearly a decade, North Korean believers, both the underground house church and the ‘refugee church’, have been designated by the internationally recognized agency, Open Doors, as the most severely persecuted national Christian church on the planet. Typical North Korean harassment of secret Christians includes arrest, denial of due process, imprisonment of three generations of the accused, torture and even summary execution. Pope Francis’ visit presents an historic opportunity to identify with these suffering, heroic believers that bring immediacy to the memory of 124 Korean Catholic martyrs canonized by Pope Francis.
Beyond the persecuted underground believers, we also urge Pope Francis to speak out boldly on behalf of the entire beleaguered population of North Korea, which is plagued with malnutrition and politically oppression. Over 21 million North Koreans, as documented by the UN Commission of Inquiry in March of 2014, are utterly bereft of virtually all human rights. UN COI Chairman Kirby went so far as to declare that crimes against humanity have been and are being committed against the entire population of North Korea.
In recognition and admiration for his lifetime of commitment to the poor, downtrodden and marginalized, we will fervently pray that the Vicar of Rome who, like his namesake Francis of Assisi, has manifested such an extraordinary concern for the world’s poor and downtrodden, will extend his embrace of comfort and protection to the suffering multitudes north of the 38th Parallel.
August 13, 2014