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‘Prisoners of hope’: keeping the faith in a time of famine

‘Prisoners of hope’: keeping the faith in a time of famine

Despite the current food shortage in North Korea, leader Kim Jong-un has told his people that they ‘must eat less food until the country re-opens its borders with China in 2025’. In a seemingly hopeless and despite situation, North Korean escapee Timothy Cho, who himself lived through the last famine in North Korea, reflects on where his hope – and the hope of the North Korean people – lies: in Jesus. 


“How long will this darkness have to cover North Korea, Father?” 

This is my frequent question in my prayers. I have seen the death of my people in front of my eyes, even since I was a child. There is ongoing isolation, starvation, darkness, oppression and persecution. And yet the North Korean authorities keep on saying, “Tighten your belts and follow our dear leaders.” 

The nation’s leader, Kim Jong-un, recently said that people ‘must eat less food until the country re-opens its borders with China in 2025’ – a shocking request when so many people in North Korea already go hungry every day. According to the UN, at least ten million people, or 40 per cent of the total population, need urgent food aid. 

And Kim Jong-un can’t blame the food crisis on the Covid-19 pandemic – many North Koreans were going hungry long before the pandemic began. A 2017 UN report found that 40 per cent of the population were undernourished. 

What is it like to be a Christian in North Korea?

North Korea’s humanitarian situation has been a grave concern since the 1990s, when millions of people starved in the terrible famine often called the ‘Arduous March’. The country is in danger of facing a similar crisis again. But I don’t lose hope for my people, because even if one faithful person remains in this country and will stand in the name of our Heavenly Father, I believe He will hear their prayers. And in fact, we know there are tens of thousands of secret believers in North Korea, calling on the name of the Lord. 

Praying with hope in the waiting 

Because of the suffering and darkness that I have gone through myself, my heart has been able to rely on God, holding on to Him as my hope. 

On one occasion, when I was in the darkest, coldest and scariest prison cell in China, I didn’t lose my strength, because my hope was in the name of God. This is the faith described in Hebrews 11:1 – ‘confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see’. I didn’t know then what would happen to me next, but I put my hope in God. 

There is strength and hope in the name of our Father, and our hearts are united as we stand together to pray and provide support for those in vulnerable circumstances, including our persecuted brothers and sisters in North Korea and other countries across the world. 

Meanwhile, I urge my brothers and sisters in the rest of the world to take your different gifts according to the grace given to each of us and use them as you can to serve God’s people (Romans 12:6-8).  

Your prayers and support mean that, through safe houses and networks in China, Open Doors is providing vital food aid for 60,000 North Koreans every year.  

God is at work all the time, and He still keeps his promises. Our faith believes it, and our hope anticipates and patiently waits for it. 

“Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.” Zechariah 9:12

Source: Open Doors

Photo: flickr