Olympic Flame Highlights Needs for Freedom

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As the Olympic torch made it's way through North Korea, this week, religious rights groups are crying out for more freedoms for Christians.

North Korea is its final stop before making it to China, the home of the 2008 Olympics. But as the Olympic flame burns brightly, freedom for North Korea's Christians is all but extinguished.

Religious rights groups say China is partly to blame.

"As a Chinese person living in North Korea, I feel very proud," said Jiang Long Fa, resident of Pyongyang.

It was all cheers and smiles for the cameras during the torch ceremony. The crowd waved Chinese and North Korean flags as they sang their respective national anthems in what organizers are calling a "journey of harmony."

But human rights advocates say it is this cozy relationship between the two countries that facilitates religious persecution.

"The only harmony that exists between North Korea and China is the harmony of a totalitarian, repressive regime," Carl Moeller said. Moeller is president of Open Doors, a ministry serving persecuted Christians around the world.

The Chinese government has an unofficial understanding with North Korea. When authorities find North Korean Christians in China, they immediately send them back home.

"It's inevitable that they face a certain death sentence either in a labor camp or by summary execution," Moeller said. "You see, that forced, violent repatriation of refugees simply seeking freedom is one of the biggest obstacles to our relationship with China as a full partner in human rights."

During Freedom Week, North Koreans around the world drew attention to this practice and other abuses of Christians.

They held protests, rallies and demonstrations to raise awareness and put pressure on the Chinese government to stop helping North Korea.

With the Olympics less than 100 days away many American politicians crossed party lines and united to denounce China's track record of Human Rights abuses.

"We stand here today to expose the cruelty of the Chinese government against innocent people around the world," said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas. "They're making it into an Olympics of oppression."

Shin Dong-Hyuk was born and raised in a North Korean concentration camp. He escaped a few years ago and made it to China.

After visiting the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., he made this personal and urgent appeal.

"If we don't act now, something like a holocaust will happen in North Korea," he said.

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Sarah Pollak

Sarah Pollak

Christian World News

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