Contrary to media reports that he would not, U.S. President Donald Trump stated that he did indeed raise human rights, and the issue of persecuted Christians specifically, in his historic meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un earlier this week in Singapore. While addressing the threat of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons was the focus of the meeting, Trump said he talked about the subject “pretty strongly” and the leaders “discussed it at pretty good length.” The President added, “We’ll be doing something on it.”
North Korea regularly tops lists ranking the worst nations on earth for religious persecution, and NRB had joined a coalition in calling for religious freedom to be on the agenda of this week’s summit. Christians and other religious minorities are subject to brutal treatment at the hands of the Kim regime if they are discovered. Indeed, the State Department’s most recent International Religious Freedom Report sates that human rights groups and defectors from the regime have reported that religious activities not sanctioned by Pyongyang “including praying, singing hymns, and reading the Bible, could lead to severe punishment, including imprisonment in political prison camps.” The document estimates 80,000 – 120,000 people are being detained in horrific prisons by the state.
Asked by a reporter after the summit if he had betrayed those prisoners by legitimizing Kim’s regime, Trump responded that he believes he has actually helped them. “There’s nothing I can say,” he said. “All I can do is do what I can do.” Trump added that he would not lift sanctions on North Korea without “significant improvement” in the area of human rights.
Trump specifically noted the persecution of Christians. Responding to a reporter, he highlighted the humanitarian work of Rev. Franklin Graham for North Koreans and said, “It did come up, and things will be happening.”
After the meeting, Graham told CBN News he was encouraged by the summit. “I want the communist government to know that Christians are not their enemies,” he said. “They have the potential of being the very best citizens in the country because God commands all of us to pray for those that are in authority.”
Open Doors USA President David Curry also was pleased the issue was raised, calling Trump’s decision “diplomatically bold.” He declared, “America and its allies — indeed the entire world — must not shy away from our moral mandate to call Kim Jong Un to task for his litany of human rights abuses — especially his imprisonment, torture and execution of Christians whose only crime was to dare to express any beliefs other than those approved by the communist regime.”
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: June 15, 2018