Olympic Games, political agendas, and the persecuted Church

South Korea (MNN) – The 2018 Winter Olympics—held in Pyeongchang, South Korea—are coming to an end, and so is the political propaganda accompanying it.
Olympics of the Politicians
The Olympics are a time of celebration, but this year’s games have been somewhat overshadowed by the political agendas which have crept into media coverage of events. Open Doors USA’s David Curry says a skewed message of North Korea has put Open Doors, and others, in the position to speak up.

U.S. News has even called North Korea’s bluff, revealing that while media reporting on the games has been favorable to the closed country, it’s failed to show the South Korean protestors rejecting the political dramatics and calling foul.

“Part of the beauty of the Olympics is that it gives everybody a platform with which to celebrate various cultures, countries through the lens of athletic performance,” Curry shares.

“But what I’ve seen and what I’m concern about this situation is with North Korea interjecting a political theme that I think we need to keep clear; that North Korea, while it may be beneficial to them to participate in the Olympics, people need to understand the perception of their country needs to be rooted in and around their lack of human rights.” Once the games are over, North Korea will still be violating the human rights of its citizens and persecuting Christians.
A signal for Change?
North Korea, despite the image it may be trying to paint through the games, does not allow its citizens to practice freedom of conscience. And while it has been interesting and even enjoyable watching North Koreans complete in the games, it’s important to “stay firm and send the right message that we’re aware of what’s happening in North Korea and that we care about it.”

But, isn’t participating in the Winter Olympics the first step in North Korea loosening up and becoming a part of the international community? Well, not really. U.S. News also reported that North Korea’s participation in the games was less about international acceptance and more about finding a way to defuse political tensions. But regardless of the “why”, the first step towards North Korea being a part of the international community “needs to be human rights, religious freedom for [its] citizens,” Curry believes.
World Watch List Participants
Curry explains how in North Korea’s ranking of enemies of the state, Christians are at the top. After all, North Korea is ranked #1 on Open Door’s *World Watch List. And it’s held this ranking for some years now.

“We can’t let the Olympic games and all of its beauty and the majesty of the athletic performance take away from our knowledge and perception of North Korea as a massive human rights violator,” Curry urges.

Still, North Korea’s participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics has put faces to the people behind the name. The situation in North Korea has become more humanized because it’s not a situation of “those people” anymore. They’re real and the world saw their faces.

And while many of us are able to watch the Olympic games on TV, North Koreans can’t. The New York Times reported as of Friday, the games hadn’t been broadcasted on North Korea’s state-run television.

(Photo Courtesy of Open Doors USA)

Yet, North Korea isn’t the only country we should be keeping an eye on. Out of the 92 countries participating in the winter games, 13 of them also find themselves on the world watch list for religious freedom violations.

“When I see these citizens, my heart breaks for the people who aren’t allowed out, aren’t allowed to decide for themselves what they think and what they believe,” Curry shares.

“And they’re not showpieces for the regime, and so they’re not there in South Korea. And so, I think it has to motivate us to a deeper level of prayer, if you’re a follower of Jesus, for the Christians, nearly half a million of them, in North Korea.”
Pray, Advocate, Give
Continue to pray for North Korea and the freedom of its citizens. Ask God to keep using events, like the 2018 Winter Olympics, to bring awareness of the pressures and persecution Christians face around the world. Pray that these events would also strengthen and motivate God’s people to stand strong and advocate on behalf of their persecuted brothers and sisters.

Also, take some time to pray through the World Watch List. Pray for these countries that are on the list who are participating in the games.

Find more ways to pray, advocate, or give here!


*The World Watch List is a ranking of the 50 top countries where Christian persecution is most severe.

Header photo: PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony (Photo/Caption Courtesy of Andy Miah via Flicker)