Persecuted Christians omitted from international evangelism crusade. Again.

An estimated audience of 14,000 gathered on March 4 and 5 at the Phu Tho Sports Facility in Ho Chi Minh City to hear Reverend Franklin Graham, CEO of the US-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as he proclaimed the gospel and announced, “Jesus is in the city tonight.”

But according to Reverend Eric Foley, CEO of Seoul-based Voice of the Martyrs Korea, Rev. Graham omitted a crucial truth from his presentation.

“He did not mention that Jesus is also in prison tonight in Vietnam,” says Rev. Foley.

Rev. Foley noted that during the week of the Graham crusade, Voice of the Martyrs Korea received reports on four new cases of Christian persecution in Vietnam. “Each case involved believers in rural areas, pressured to renounce their faith and ultimately either forced to leave their village or be subject to violence and/or destruction of property,” says Rev. Foley. He says that what is happening in Vietnam is typical of the experience of Christians in other Communist countries.

Second night of Revered Franklin Graham’s Spring Love Festival, held at the Phu Tho Sports Facility in Ho Chi Minh City (Photo credit: March 6th post on Franklin Graham’s Facebook Page)

“It’s a pattern that goes back to Soviet times,” says Rev. Foley. “Communist governments are eager to portray to the rest of the world that religious freedom exists in their country. So they invite groups like the Graham association in to hold large-scale crusades that receive extensive coverage from the international media. The international evangelists praise the Communist government for their religious freedom. But in truth, there is only freedom for Christians and churches who register with the government and follow the government religious regulations. The Lord’s most faithful servants in the country are forgotten or ignored by each side for what they regrettably view as greater strategic gain.”

The United States Department of State currently includes Vietnam on its “Special Watch List” of countries under the terms of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998, due to continuing reports of violations of religious freedom in the country. The US government’s Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) advocated in its 2022 report that the State Department should designate Vietnam as a “country of particular concern,” the highest level of religious freedom violation, for “engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom”.

The Executive Summary of the State Department’s 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom in Vietnam notes, “Religious activists blamed authorities for ‘manipulating’ recognized religious groups and accused their agents or proxies of causing conflicts in order to suppress the activities of unregistered groups.”

Rev. Foley sees the March Graham crusade in Ho Chi Minh City as the latest example of such manipulation. “The Graham Association explains that they were invited by local churches, and that during their visit they spoke to the government about religious freedom. But even the Graham Association website itself says they were ‘welcomed to the country by government officials in Hanoi, who granted permission’ for the event, and the Graham Association praised the government officials for ‘open support of religious freedom’. The Graham Association website praises the churches for ‘working together with the government of Vietnam’.”

Second night of Revered Franklin Graham’s Spring Love Festival, held at the Phu Tho Sports Facility in Ho Chi Minh City (Photo credit: March 6th post on Franklin Graham’s Facebook Page)

But Rev. Foley says the most concerning aspect of the crusade was the omission of any mention of the Christians who are currently experiencing persecution in Vietnam. Notes Foley, “According to Charisma News, Franklin Graham said that during the crusade, ‘We stood and prayed together for those in authority as the Bible commands.’ But the Bible also commands us to remember those who are in prison for their faith—to stand for them, and not to omit mentioning them. Jesus says that whatever we do to the least of his brothers and sisters, we do to him. So, failing to mention the active persecution of Christians in a country, simply to gain favor with the government, is not an acceptable evangelism strategy to Jesus.”

According to Rev. Foley, the Voice of the Martyrs movement has historically been critical of the Graham Association’s willingness to hold crusade events in Communist countries where Christians are actively experiencing persecution.

“The Graham Association has a long history of accepting such invitations and of portraying them as signs of growing religious freedom in a country,” says Rev. Foley. “But inviting the Graham Association to preach has not historically proven to be a sign of growing religious freedom in Communist countries.” Rev. Foley notes Billy Graham’s 1984 trip to Moscow to preach at a Baptist church. “Graham urged those in attendance to pray for and obey the government, and he thanked and praised the government for the invitation to come. But during the event, one Christian man unfurled a banner that asked, ‘What about the 200+ Baptist prisoners in the Gulag?’ Within two minutes, KGB officials had torn down the banner and arrested the brother.  He spent two years in prison. He was never mentioned by the Graham Association.”

A typical rural dwelling for Christians in Vietnam. (File photo from Voice of the Martyrs Australia)

Rev. Foley says Voice of the Martyrs Korea is requesting prayers for the four recent cases of persecution whose reports the organization received during the Graham crusade. “Let’s pray that the suffering and faithfulness of these persecuted brothers and sisters in Vietnam will not be forgotten even as the international news media focuses its reports on the crusade.”

  • “Pray for Vy, who became a Christian about a month ago. Her decision for Christ greatly angered her children who work for the local authorities. They physically attacked her and forced her out of her house. She is now staying with another believer. VOM will fund the purchase of a piece of land so Vy can cultivate it and provide for herself.”
  • “Pray for Brother Dang, a faithful servant of God. On more than one occasion he has been physically attacked by thugs and by the local authorities as he has gone about ministering to his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Recently he was once again beaten, then his phone was confiscated, and his motorbike destroyed. VOM will fund the costs of replacements.”
  • “Pray for Xuyen, a former communist soldier. As a soldier, he received all kinds of benefits and subsidies from the government. But when he and his family accepted Christ, not only were all the benefits and subsidies cut but his land was also seized; he was also physically attacked. VOM will purchase some land for Xuyen and his family.”
  • “Lastly, pray for brother Kieu, whose house was burned and then demolished after he became a Christian. He set up a temporary shelter nearby, which is unstable. VOM will provide funds to rebuild or repair.”

Individuals interested in learning about or supporting Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s work in partnership with the persecuted Christians of Vietnam can visit

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Burkina Faso: As Jihadist attacks increase, VOM counters–with a major Bible distribution

More than 10,000 Christians in Burkina Faso have now been driven from their homes due to the violence of ISIS and al-Qaida. The believers are part of an estimated 2.3 million people displaced by jihadist attacks across West Africa. With the United Nations estimating 20% of the population of Burkina Faso now needing humanitarian aid, international groups are mobilizing to provide food, water, and shelter.

But according to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, one overlooked need is now being met.

“During the intense persecution, many of these Christian families lost their most treasured possession – their family Bible,” says Representative Foley.

Now, thanks to a fundraising campaign conducted by Voice of the Martyrs Korea in partnership with Voice of the Martyrs Poland, these Christians are receiving Bibles, not only for their families, but also to give to their unsaved neighbors.

“Voice of the Martyrs in Korea is partnering with Voice of the Martyrs Poland and with local Burkina Faso church leaders to provide each family with two Bibles – one for their families and another for evangelism,” says Representative Foley. She says her organization transferred funds this month to print and distribute more than 1,400 Bibles—twice the campaign goal. These funds will be added to contributions from other Voice of the Martyrs organizations around the world to provide more than 5,400 Bibles to local believers.

Representative Foley says that with the last French soldiers leaving the country and January 2023 described by Burkina Faso officials as the deadliest month in the country’s history, even some Christians question whether the time is right to send Bibles.

A burned-out transport bus after a recent jihadist attack in Burkina Faso.

“Too often we Christians have a wrong thinking that Bible distribution must wait or be postponed until a conflict or war is over, as if political peace and humanitarian aid are necessary to first make an area ‘safe’ for the Bible,” says Representative Foley. “But the Word of God teaches that man cannot live by bread alone, and that is true even during a war. Conflicts like this can go on for a long time. If all that is provided is humanitarian aid, a whole generation of Christians grows up without biblical teaching. And it is that teaching—love your neighbor, turn the other cheek, forgive—that can put broken countries and relationships between citizens back together in healthy ways. Jihadists target and kill Christians because they consider Christians to be infidels. But the Bible says that a drought of God’s word is to be feared more than anything.”

Representative Foley says that Voice of the Martyrs Korea sees Bible distribution in major zones of conflict as one of the ministry’s core competencies and most important responsibilities. “Voice of the Martyrs Korea is not a mission organization but instead a partner with local Christians living under persecution or pressure,” says Representative Foley. “Any time a major conflict threatens an area, that’s when people in that area instinctively turn to God and become open to the Bible. They’re looking for hope. Sometimes missionary organizations evacuate their personnel in such times, or they urge their missionaries to be cautious. But local Christians have nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. Even as refugees, they still have to find work and provide food to their families and gather as church. God then seems to give these ordinary local Christians a special boldness to preach the gospel and share the Bible with their neighbors.”

Religious extremists attacked this church, destroying equipment and burning 400 Bibles

Representative Foley said that local believers’ requests for two Bibles—one for their own family and one to share with a non-Christian family in personal evangelistic outreach—motivated Voice of the Martyrs Korea to participate in the campaign to raise funds for Bibles. “These Burkina Faso believers rightly value the Word of God,” says Representative Foley. “Even as jihadists continue to hunt them down, they are focused not on their own safety but on glorifying God by spreading his word.”

Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s statistics indicate that Protestants compose only 6% of Burkina Faso’s population. According to Representative Foley, they have been under growing persecution since 2016—a fact not well known to Christians globally.

“Just this week I met with a Korean pastor who was not aware that Burkina Faso Christians were being persecuted,” says Representative Foley. “When I asked the source of his information, he said it was a missionary who had served there 20 years ago. But as I explained to the pastor, Burkina Faso has seen a sharp rise in Islamist activity since 2016. Militants linked to ISIS and al-Qaida, who had been largely contained in neighboring Mali and Niger, have crossed porous borders in the north to broaden their influence in the Sahel region. Christians have been a primary target of the jihadists’ campaign since April 2019, when approximately 70 Christians were killed and five churches were attacked. More than 200 churches have reportedly closed in northern and eastern Burkina Faso due to security issues and threat of attack. That’s why it’s important for Christians to stay up to date on persecution information: If Christians rely on outdated information, then our brothers and sisters are deprived of the prayers the Bible commands us to pray on behalf of those suffering because of their testimony for Christ.”

Christians in Burkina Faso receive Bibles

Representative Foley says Christians can pray the following for believers in Burkina Faso:

– Pray for believers encircled by jihadists. May God give them strength and boldness to trust in him and not deny him even in the worst trial.

– Pray for those who’ve lost their loved ones.

– Pray for God’s wisdom to continue the ministry to Burkina Faso believers.

– Pray for the evangelistic efforts of Burkina Faso believers as they distribute the Bibles from Voice of the Martyrs to their unbelieving neighbors.

Individuals interested in more information about Christian persecution in Burkina Faso can visit

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Easter letters from inside NK show young people finding freedom, solace in the Bible

Most North Koreans typically go their whole lives without seeing a Bible. But according to letters received at Easter by Voice of the Martyrs Korea from Bible recipients inside of North Korea, that may be changing–especially among younger North Koreans.

“One letter writer wrote us from inside North Korea, ‘There is no way people in NK possess the knowledge of God throughout their whole life. But we early in our twenties have been allowed to come to know God [through these Bibles we received],’ says Voice of the Martyrs Representative Dr Hyun Sook Foley. Her organization supplies North Korean dialect Bibles to North Koreans inside North Korea, as well as to North Korean laborers working abroad and North Korean sex trafficked women in China. Some of the Bibles, including the ones received by those who wrote thank you letters back to the ministry, are individually distributed to recipients by underground Christians from North Korea and the other countries where Voice of the Martyrs Korea reaches North Koreans.

Representative Foley says Voice of the Martyrs Korea distributes 40,000 to 50,000 North Korean dialect Bibles a year in print and electronic formats to North Korean citizens outside of South Korea. She notes that the Bible is also read daily on Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s five shortwave radio broadcasts to North Korea.

According to Representative Foley, independent surveys show that such distributions are having an impact on the number of North Koreans who have seen a Bible inside of North Korea.

The North Korean Human Rights Information Center, an independent data-gathering NGO, has been conducting an ongoing study where they found that in the year 2000, effectively 0% of people inside North Korea had ever seen a Bible with their own eyes,” says Representative Foley. “They have continued to update that study, and at the end of 2020 they determined that around 8% of people inside of North Korea have now seen a Bible with their own eyes.”

She says that number is likely to have increased even further during the Covid pandemic. “The requests for Bibles from North Koreans outside of South Korea doubled each year during the pandemic,” she says. Her organization does not disclose information about the means used to receive and fulfill requests for Bibles, noting that South Korea’s Anti-Leaflet Law could put the safety of Bible couriers and recipients at risk. “With the exception of radio broadcasting, anyone bringing the Bible into North Korea from any country in any format, whether printed or electronic, using any means of distribution, remains at risk of prosecution,” says Representative Foley.

Representative Foley says her organization publishes select letters from North Korean Bible recipients in order to help Christians outside of North Korea understand the impact the Bible is having today inside of North Korea. “Christians outside of North Korea wrongly think that the only kinds of mission activity possible toward North Koreans are things like teaching at North Korean universities, sending money for humanitarian aid through North Korean government-approved projects, or conducting training programs to plan for missions in the future when North Korea might ‘open’ to the gospel,” says Representative Foley. “But as the Apostle Paul wrote Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:9, ‘The word of God is not bound!’ The Bible is continuing to get inside North Korea today, and more North Koreans are reading it and being transformed by it today than literally any other time in history.”

(File photo) SD cards being loaded with North Korean dialect Bibles.

Representative Foley says the latest letters received by Voice of the Martyrs over Easter from Bible recipients inside of North Korea show evidence of this transformation.

“One recipient wrote, ‘I am giving thanks to God who washed away agony and hatred but gave us the eyes of love and joy to see the world.’ Another wrote, ‘Many comrades here have been surprisingly transformed (after believing in God)…The only hope of the NK young people is to believe in God.’ And a third recipient wrote, ‘After coming to know God, we did not pray not only for ourselves but also for others who are greatly in pain. Then, I could not believe even at this moment to say this, but through our prayers, our comrades began to recover from sickness.’ University teaching, humanitarian aid, church planting—these are all good things from a human standpoint. But only the word of God can transform the human heart. That transformation is what is happening today in North Korea as more and more North Koreans read the Bible.” 

Translations of the letters from Bible recipients inside North Korean received by Voice of the Martyrs Korea this Easter are shown below.

The past three years were truly a difficult time to most of Chosun people including myself. We still do not see today when it will end. Nevertheless, I am truly thankful for you to continually support us through this challenging period. Above all, we are so grateful especially for letting us hear the Words of God. The only reason why these young comrades like me have not died through this difficult time is because of only the word of God that has sustained us. I have been thinking deeply about sharing the God I experienced with others. I am giving thanks to God who washed away agony and hatred but gave us the eyes of love and joy to see the world.
From NK

There is no way people in NK possess the knowledge of God throughout their whole life. But we early in our twenties have been allowed to come to know God. I know this is such a tremendous blessing to know Him. I also have learned with what mind I should live and discerned the lies of the NK government. It was such a moment that I was set free from mental slavery. Many comrades here have been surprisingly transformed (after believing in God). I believe and hope that God will perform God’s mighty action in NK. The only hope of the NK young people is to believe in God. I certainly believe it. I give thanks again to you who gave us this opportunity (to know God).

Some say that the Covid has gone away, but we are still fighting an unknown disease. Many comrades suffer side effects from Covid. When they got infected, they did not have proper treatment and had to just wait for death to come. I felt terrifyingly sad as I was seeing my comrades dying on the field without a chance of going to hospital. After coming to know God, we did not pray only for ourselves but also for others who are greatly in pain. Then, I could not believe even at this moment to say this, but through our prayers, our comrades began to recover from sickness. As getting to know God more, I was empowered to overcome pain, and now have hope. We are greatly thankful for all these. Thanks to everyone abroad who are praying for us.

Yesterday, I had to attend a late-night lecture (communist moral education). It was explaining to us about how to reject reactionary elements (against anti-government propaganda). If we were deceived by these, it means would betray our nation, our parents and our brothers all at once. In truth, if I had not known God, I would have believed all these voices of the lecture. I feel I am reborn every day as listening to the God’s words. I now understand how important to live a day with a right spirit. I give thanks to God. I give also thanks to those who helped us.

Individuals or churches interested in supporting Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s North Korea ministry can make a donation via website or wire transfer to:

국민은행 (KB Bank) 463501-01-243303 

예금주 (Account Holder): (사)순교자의소리 

Please include the phrase “NK Ministry” with the donation. 

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