In North Korea religious persecution is horrifyingly common fuelled by their denial of article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It states a person should have the freedom to change and practice their religion. It’s estimated that at least 100,000 Christians, around a 1/4 of the Christian population in North Korea, are persecuted and/or are being held in prison and labour camps. Christians in North Korea are said to be the most heavily persecuted in the world.

Being uncovered as a Christian in North Korea is a death sentence on the grounds of being a ‘political criminal’. If they aren’t killed instantly, they’re  taken to a labour camp where the inhumane conditions and the barbaric torture, results in few believers making it out alive. Even if they somehow miraculously survive, irrevocable physical and mental changes have occurred. 

According to Open Doors UK, a Christian charity,“Secret police carry out raids to identify Christians, and children are encouraged to tell their teachers about any sign of faith in their parents’ home. A Christian is never safe” and, “many Christians are unable to meet with other believers, and have to keep their faith entirely hidden. There are even stories of husbands and wives not knowing, for many years, that their spouse was also a Christian.”

As I’m sure you can imagine, this persecution not only has psychological and physical ramifications but creates ratcheting societal tension. The invisible power of culture and indoctrination forms a society which welcomes hostility towards Christians, preventing them from leading a normal life. This encourages abhorrent violence directed at Christians from their fellow community members, with some calling this a ‘modern holocaust’. Christians are seen as enemies, not only of the state, but the society they live in. 

Contrastingly, here in England Christianity is openly encouraged, with it having historical significance throughout the monarchy. This fuelled the societal acceptance of the faith and I wonder if without this Christians would be as alienated as other religious groups nowadays like Muslims or Jews. Religious freedom is not as abundant for these groups than it is for Christianity. For example, Jews not being provided with prayer rooms for their three daily prayers or being openly gawked at while praying outside the synagogue. Muslims have an increased perception of violence and are unfortunately met with hostility by some people due to the Islamic State attacks. Despite article 9 of the Human Rights Act 1998 claiming freedom of religion and belief, it doesn’t account for the discrimination and antagonism people may feel from claiming a specific religion, which will inevitably infringe on their freedom. Kingston college has a multi-use room that is called a Diversity zone which can be booked for prayer. This fails to appreciate the importance of prayer for Jews as there isn’t guaranteed access and is just one of the many ways our society has failed to install religious freedom.

To conclude, religious freedom can be seen as more myth than fact due to the levels of discrimination all religions face that encroaches on their freedom. Through the disparity between Christians here and in North Korea we can appreciate the level of religious freedom Christians are afforded here but realise it is not the same everywhere. From Christians to Jews to Muslims no one is ever really free in their religion.