Just possessing a Bible still can be cause for a death penalty in North Korea, so it’s no surprise that the hermit kingdom remains No. 1 on this year’s World Watch List of the world’s most notorious persecutors of Christians, a project assembled by Open Doors USA.
Persecution of believers also increased sharply across Africa, eight out of 10 worst offenders are ruled by Muslim theocracy and Egypt, under the Muslim Brotherhood, actually saw its ranking lowered, but not because of any improvement there. It was because of worsening conditions elsewhere, the report said.
In North Korea, a possible lesser penalty for someone having a Bible would be for the offender, and three generations of his or her family, to be sent to prison camps, where at estimated 50,000 to 70,000 people are held.
Open Doors’ Senior Communications Specialist Paul Estabrook says the reclusive communist dictatorship earned the ranking based on the group’s five criteria for evaluating a country.
“North Korea doesn’t allow Christians any freedom in any of the five spheres used in the process,” Estabrook said.
“We use five spheres, the private, family, community, congregational, and public. … North Korea doesn’t allow Christians any freedom,” Estabrook said.
In addition, the dictatorship maintains a gulag, he noted.
“North Korea is known to have somewhere between 50,000 to 70,000 Christians in forced labor camps. And they’re there for doing nothing except trying to worship the Lord,” Estabrook said.
That aligns with what WND reported in July, that under newly installed leader Kim Jong-un, the enigmatic nation of North Korea still has about 70,000 people in work camps.
Sources confirmed North Korea has eased or lifted a number of restrictions for citizens since Kim Jong-un succeeded his father, Kim Jong-il. Bans have been lifted on Western foods such as pizza and french fries, and restrictions on the number of cell phones have been loosened, for example, according to Ryan Morgan, an analyst with International Christian Concern Asia.
However, whatever secular benefits may have trickled down to residents of the isolated nation, there is no evidence of any improvement in the condition of the persecuted church there, he said.
“We have not heard any reports of improvement for Christians in the country and have no reason to believe anything has changed,” Morgan said. “The regime still has up to 70,000 Christians locked away in virtual concentration camps.”
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A female squad commander serving in the Israel Border Police in Hebron shot dead a 17-year-old Palestinian who had aimed a gun at one of the men under her command Wednesday evening. Only later, it was learned the gun the youth was brandishing – though made out of metal – was fake.
Palestinians started circulating her photo on social media, some demanding she be brought to trial while others threatened her life.
One of the messages said: “There’s no escaping death.” Another said: “You’re going down.”
One Arabic Facebook page posted her photo with the caption: “Wanted for international justice — we demand that this murderer be tried at The Hague Court.”
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71 year-old Christian Missionary Birgitta Aledy died today in Stockholm. She was shot last week in Pakistan.
The Local reported, via Religion of Peace:
The Swedish charity worker who was shot in the chest in Pakistan last week died in a Stockholm hospital on Wednesday night.
Sveriges Television (SVT) reported that 71-year-old Birgitta Almeby died at the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm late on Wednesday.
She was receiving treatment after having been flown home to Sweden for specialist medical care for her injuries.
Niclas Lindgren, director of the missionary wing of the Pentecostal church in Sweden, said it was hard to come to grips with Almeby’s killing.
“Birgitta worked with social issues like education and health care. If she’d worked with political issues, it may have been understandable why she got murdered,” he told The Local.
“There was no indication that there was a threat to her life. It was very unexpected. As it is now, we don’t know what the motive was or why she was killed.”
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Third attack on central city in three days intercepted by fifth Iron Dome battery, deployed in Gush Dan earlier in the day; Palestinian terrorists fire 740 rockets into Israel since start of operation.
The Iron Dome intercepted two Iranian-made Fajr-5 missiles aimed at Tel Aviv on Saturday. The missiles marked the third attack on the heavily populated central city in as many days, after Palestinian terrorists from Gaza fired two missiles toward the financial capital Friday, prompting red alert air raid sirens to sound in the city.
While police said that one of the missiles landed in an open area, a military source told The Jerusalem Post that the Iron Dome intercepted both missiles.
The Defense Ministry deployed an upgraded Iron Dome battery in the Gush Dan area in the center of Israel on Saturday morning, after rushing its production in light of escalation. The battery is the fifth Iron Dome system operational in Israel.
The attack followed volley after volley of rockets aimed at southern towns on Saturday, as red alert sirens wailed repeatedly, warning residents to flee for cover. Two rockets also landed outside the capital Jerusalem on Friday, causing no injury or damage.
Rockets in Ashdod lightly injured five people Friday, and caused damage to a house. Houses were also damaged in Eshkol and Be’er Tuviya. Four IDF soldiers were lightly injured by shrapnel from a rocket in the Eshkol area.
According to Israel Radio, over 60 rockets have fallen on the South on the fourth day of Operation Pillar of Defense. The Iron Dome rocket defense system intercepted 15 of the rockets.
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Hamas rockets aimed at Tel Aviv is tantamount to a declaration of war from the terrorist group and Israel will do whatever is necessary to protect its people and remove the threat, according to retired Israeli Brigadier Gen. Elihu Ben-Onn.
On Wednesday, Israeli Defense Forces targeted and killed Ahmed Jabari, the militant leader of Hamas. In response, Hamas is launching even more rockets — this time into the suburbs of Tel Aviv.
“Absolutely this is a declaration of war by those bloody Muslim radical terrorists, Hamas, Palestinian terrorists. That’s a new situation in the Middle East,” Ben-Onn told WND.
The threat of rockets fired from Gaza reaching the Tel Aviv area is only a recent one. Ben-Onn says Hamas has expanded its range thanks to weapons from another threat to Israel.
“We know that those terrorists in the last two, three years got some ammunition and missiles and rockets from Iran,” he said, noting that some components are coming through Lebanon and Sudan and give Hamas the possibility to enhance and enlarge the range of the missiles.
Ben-Onn says when Israel left Gaza voluntarily in 2005, militant rockets had a range of only five kilometers. In the subsequent seven years, Hamas has acquired rockets and missiles that increased the range to 10 miles and now they can reach targets 30 miles away.
Ben-Onn supported the controversial decision by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to unilaterally leave Gaza seven years ago as a gesture toward peace. The general now says that didn’t move the peace process forward. It only exposed the true intentions of the Palestinians.
“The conclusion is very clear,” said Ben-Onn. “If you give territory to terrorists, like other criminals, you cannot trust them. Hamas keeps saying Israel has no right to live in this area, ‘we do not recognize your existence. You should leave the state of Israel.’”
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