John Short is a Christian missionary who is being deported for accidentally offending North Koreans on Feb. 16. Unknowingly, Short outraged North Korea by passing out Christian tracts on the birthday of their deceased leader, Kim Jong Il. The constitution of North Korea promotes the freedom of religion, yet the government enforces that no other religions are allowed except for Buddhism.
Such a contradiction has made it difficult for anyone with differing religious practices to exist or survive within Korean society. In fact, those who try to influence others to convert to Christianity or any other religion that is not Buddhism are certain to face dire consequences if caught. Offenders can face being exported to labor camps or even execution simply for not siding with the Buddhist religion.
Missionary John Short issued an apology for having offended North Korea by passing out tracts near a Buddhist temple on Kim Jong Il’s birthday. However, a devout believer in his Christian faith, John Short is no stranger to religious persecution. He has been arrested several times for previously trying to reach out to others for Christianity in China.
In 1996, Short was banished from China and not allowed reentry for two years after he was convicted of “speaking out about the brutality against Chinese Christians.” While working in China, he arrested many times, simply because he wanted to share his religion with others.
Karen, Short’s wife, was not at all taken aback by what had transpired in Pyongyang where her husband was. She said he knew when he went to China what he was getting himself into, as this had happened many times in the past. Around the world, people are arrested every day for not supporting the same ideals of their government. Karen said North Korea being outraged by John Short the missionary was bound to happen.
A staggering 100,00 Christians lose their lives worldwide, only because they believe that Jesus Christ is God. Christianity has always been the subject of much controversy, but Christians are forewarned in the Bible that they must come to expect this type of persecution. This is the foundation on which Mr. Short has continually stood, in the face of many frightening circumstances.
Worldwide, government agencies force national religious requirements on their citizens. Citizens must practice their religion of choice in secret and live in fear of what might happen should they go public with their faith. This type of religious tyranny is not solely the plight of Christians. In fact, many religions are discriminated against, forcing devotees to worship without the freedom to be who and what they feel they need to be spiritually.
Fortunately, in John Short’s case, he has not been dealt with more severely because he issued an apology for having not chosen the proper timing for his attempt to influence the North Korean people about Christianity. The North Korean government is also taking into consideration Short’s age of 75 as a factor in their determination to deport him. But Short represents a small portion of Christians who are actually released without dire consequences. It remains that North Korea was outraged by John Short’s offense.
By J.A. Johnson