A two-year-old has been sentenced to life in prison in North Korea after officials found a Bible belonging to the infant’s parents.
The entire family, including the young infant, were sentenced to life in a prison camp by North Korean authorities back in 2009, a new International Religious Freedom Report from the U.S. State Department has revealed.
The report said that the government has continued to “execute, torture, arrest, and physically abuse individuals for their religious activities,” while prison camp conditions were described as “dire” with “various forms of physical mistreatment.”
According to one victim cited in the report, “[Officials] worked us hard without feeding us properly… I suffered from malnutrition and was sure I would not survive. I kept having diarrhea, even when I only drank water, and I weighed just 35 kilograms.”
Other victims described beatings, ingesting contaminated food, being forced into uncomfortable positions for long periods of time, and receiving verbal abuse.
The NGO Open Doors (USA) was cited in the report as saying that Christians in North Korea experience persecution that was “violent and intense,” adding that “life for Christians… is a constant cauldron of pressure; capture or death is only a mistake away.”
The organisation has estimated that as many as 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in the country for their faith.
Anyone caught with a copy of the Bible in North Korea could face the death penalty, while family members, including children, are given life sentences.
The report stated that parents often had to hide their faith from their children with worship done “as secretly as possible,” as children are encouraged to tell their teachers about any signs of faith in their parents’ home.
Another NGO, Korea Future, reported that officials “taught children anti-religious views beginning in kindergarten, with a particular focus against Christianity.”
Its 2020 report stated, “While Buddhism and Cheondogyo were explained as matters of historical interest, rather than as religions, it was Christianity that was singled out for attention within the public school system.”
It was said that multiple respondents spoke of textbooks containing sections on Christian missionaries that listed their “evil deeds,” which the textbooks claimed included rape, blood-sucking, organ harvesting, murder, and espionage.
One defector told the organisation that the government published graphic novels in which “Christians coaxed children into churches and then took them to the basement to draw their blood.”
Also noted was another case from 2020, where prison officials consistently denied a Christian woman under solitary confinement the ability to sleep. The ongoing torture eventually led her to commit suicide in a bathroom.
The report concluded that persons known to be Christians occupy the lowest rungs of society, and that every Christian is “vulnerable and in danger.”