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Bishop and Baptist Church attacked in CAR

On 25 July 2014, a ceasefire was signed between the two main warring groups in the Central African Republic: a predominantly Muslim rebel coalition known as Séléka, and violent vigilante groups opposing their advance, which became known as the “anti-Balaka” (“Balaka” means “machete”).

The ex-Séléka rebel movement, together with the local Muslim population (mainly of Chadian and Sudanese migrant descent and Fulani Mbororo herdsmen) continues to dominate the north and east of the country.

On Monday August 3rd, 2015, the Baptist Church Centre (UFEB) in Kaga Bandoro was set on fire at about 3 a.m. The arsonist(s) are so far unidentified.

The day before, on Sunday, two clerics were attacked by armed men, believed to be Fulani herdsmen. Mgr Edouard Mathos, Bishop of Bambari, accompanied by Father Sylvain Mapouka, were on a pastoral visit when they were stopped by heavily armed men about 25 km from Bria. The attackers robbed them of all their belongings: telephones, bank cards and even gifts they were taking to a celebration.

 

'Tolerated' Christianity in N Korea?

In the first of a series about the worst places in the world for Christian persecution, BBC reporter Stephen Evans finds that Christians in North Korea are tolerated in some areas so long as they do not proselytize by, for example, handing out bibles.

North Korea has topped the Open Doors' World Watch List of places where Christians face most persecution for the last 13 years. The Pew Research Centre describes its government as "among the most repressive in the world, including toward religion".

Evans spoke to a former teacher at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, opened in 2010 and funded and staffed largely by devout Christians from the US and South Korea. "The (perhaps unspoken) deal the regime has made is that it gets a very high-grade teaching establishment and the funders and teachers get an "in" into North Korea for whenever the place is opened up," his report says.

He also identified four state-sanctioned Christian churches in the capital, Pyongyang. An attendee of one told Evans that it had a congregation of "perhaps 20 people, many of them elderly women". 

North Korea fears Christianity being established as an alternative ideology, Evans says, but it is tolerated so long as it can be controlled - a similar argument made about China by The Guardian.

The latest threat to the state ideology seems to have come from Korean-Canadian pastor, Hyeon Soo Lim, recently charged with committing crimes against the state despite already having visited over 100 times for humanitarian reasons.

The very public 'confession' Lim made last week comes ahead of a humanitarian visit to the state today by South Korea's former first lady, Lee Hee-Ho. Her visit raises hopes of a thaw in cross-border relations particularly if she meets North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, who has yet to officially receive any South Korean since assuming power three years ago.

N Korea parades missing pastor at press conference

Korean-Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim, who went missing during a visit to North Korea in January, took part in a press conference on 30 July in which he read a prepared statement admitting alleged crimes against the state, reports NK News. He later made his 'confession' before a Pyongyang church congregation.

Reading from the statement, Lim admitted at the press conference to "severely slandering" the state leadership and system in order to overthrow it and establish a religious state in North Korea.

“The most serious crimes I have committed are that I severely slandered and impaired the supreme dignity and system of this country and perpetrated a scheme to overthrow the state,” Lim said.

“In order to create the impression that it is God, and not the Workers’ Party and this country’s government, which gives things to eat and provides means to live, we intentionally drew the cross and wrote the name of the church and Bible phrases on the sacks of provisions that were donated to several parts of the country such as Chongjin and Jagang Province.”

Lim, a member of the Light Presbyterian Church in Toronto/Mississauga, has been involved in humanitarian work for more than 20 years.

Following the press conference his family and church made no comment on the charges against Lim, but did say the work he did in North Korea was "for the betterment of the people ...it is this tremendous love for the people of DPRK that motivated Mr Lim to travel to the nation over 100 times".

The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs expressed their "deep concern" for Lim and said they "continue to advocate for consular access and for a resolution in his case".

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