Christian radio broadcast to Maldives penetrates “Canopy of fear”

Announcing that the project had achieved all goals set for it in the eight months since first signing on the air, Voice of the Martyrs Korea today announced that it has renewed its annual broadcast signal lease and will continue its daily Christian shortwave radio broadcast into the Maldives Islands in 2023.

“Should the Lord permit, it is our intention to continue to broadcast the gospel message into the Maldives until Christ returns,” says Voice of the Martys Korea Representative Dr Hyun Sook Foley, whose organization also operates 5 daily radio broadcasts into North Korea and 2 into China, aimed at supporting local Christians in those countries.

Representative Foley notes that while North Korea and China are better known for their extensive restrictions on Christian activity, the Maldives consistently ranks near the top in independent rankings of Christian persecution by religious watchdog agencies and governmental bodies.

“Neither mission work nor Christian literature has ever been allowed in the Maldives,” says Representative Foley. She notes that the Maldives’ constitution requires all citizens to be Muslim. “Conversion from Islam means that someone can be stripped of their citizenship and punished under Shariah law,” she says. “Even foreign workers who are Christians are closely watched, which makes church life extremely difficult and practically nonexistent. Churches are outlawed, and openly carrying the Bible is illegal. The country is so tightly controlled by Islamic law that there is not even a Bible fully translated into the native language of most citizens of the Maldives.”

Originally, Maldivians were Buddhists, but in the twelfth century Islam was proclaimed the national religion. Today, more than 97% of the 300,000 citizens of the Maldives report affiliation with Sunni Islam.

Representative Foley say a host of laws are designed to ensure that only Islamic principles are taught within the country.

“In order to deliver a sermon or a religious talk, one must obtain a license from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs (MIA),” says Representative Foley. “Only a Sunni Muslim with a degree in religious studies from a government recognized university may apply for a license.”

She notes that criticism of Islam is against the law, with punishments up to a year in jail.

“The definition of ‘criticism of Islam’ is very broad, with even the distribution of materials promoting another religion considered as criticism of Islam, even if the literature makes no mention of Islam at all,” she says.

According to Representative Foley, separate laws prohibit the distribution of Christian literature. Violations may result in a prison sentence of 2 to 5 years.

VOM Korea’s CEO Pastor Eric Foley records a daily radio broadcast to the Maldives.

On July 6th, 2021, Maldivian authorities announced that an investigation had determined that Christian literature in the Dhivehi language, the native language of the islands, was being mailed to both individuals and companies in the Maldives. Some of the literature is believed to have been confiscated, but the government was unable to verify the origin of the literature and closed the investigation.

Other unconfirmed reports indicate that the Maldives may station government agents in nearby countries like Sri Lanka to monitor or stop Christian outreach to the Maldives from originating there.

According to Representative Foley, Maldivian Christians must keep their faith secret. “If they are discovered, they may lose their citizenship,” she says. “Even owning a Bible can result in imprisonment.”

Most Christians in the Maldives are expatriates, and most prefer not to organize meetings out of fear of repercussions. Representative Foley says that while the law does permit “non-Muslim” foreigners to live in the Maldives, they are forbidden from expressing their religious beliefs in public. Sharing the gospel with Muslims is illegal and can result in deportation.

According to Representative Foley, these factors combine to create a “canopy of fear” when doing any kind of Christian activity in or near the Maldives.

“Many Christian groups that normally work in ‘closed countries’ have not been able to do any kind of work in the Maldives,” says Representative Foley. “That’s why radio broadcasting is so important: It replaces the ‘canopy of fear’ with a ‘gospel canopy’—daily presentation of the gospel in ways that local Christians as well as mission agencies can rely on and build upon in their evangelism and discipleship efforts.”

But according to Representative Foley, the “canopy of fear” nearly smothered her organization’s efforts to launch the daily radio broadcast earlier this year. “One of our possible partners for the project was unable to secure radio airtime due to the relationship of the Maldivian government with their own government. And several potential announcers were ultimately too scared to have their voices heard over the radio, even though we planned to alter the voices digitally to make detection difficult.”

Nevertheless, she says, Voice of the Martyrs Korea decided to press ahead on its own, and it launched its daily shortwave radio broadcast to the Maldives April 1, 2022.

Representative Foley says that while the use of shortwave radio for the broadcast may sound old fashioned, it is actually a cutting-edge effort. “Recently the Maldivian government has increased its efforts to block Christian content on the internet and on medium-wave radio,” she says. Blocking shortwave is much harder. “A shortwave radio signal can also effectively reach the full 90,000 square kilometers and 1,000+ islands of the Maldivian archipelago, and it is much more difficult for the government to block on a regular basis.”

Representative Foley notes that as much as 25% of the Maldivian population has regularly listened to popular shortwave broadcasts in recent years.

For the security of listeners, Voice of the Martyrs Korea does not release information regarding local listenership. But according to Representative Foley, the program has not experienced any jamming by the Maldivian government.

“We have received many reception reports from all around the world – India, Philippines, Morocco, Japan, China, Germany, Australia, Austria, and the United States – confirming that our broadcast is being received,” she says. “Our engineers remain at full alert and are daily monitoring our Maldivian broadcast in order to counteract any jamming efforts that may arise in the future.”

Representative Foley says that the Voice of the Martyrs Korea daily broadcasts utilize a combination of Dhivehi language content and English language content. “We use several books of the Bible that have been translated and recorded in Dhivehi, as well as other Christian content that has been recorded in Dhivehi. We supplement this with English language content that we record in our radio studio. English is used in the Maldivian school system and is gaining popularity across the islands.”

Representative Foley raises two prayer requests as the daily radio broadcast to the Maldives begins its second year. “First, please pray for a continued strong and clear signal for the VOMK broadcast to the Maldives. Second, since it is too dangerous for Maldivian Christians to gather for worship in small groups, please pray that our broadcast can encourage Christians who feel alone.”

Those interested in donating to support Voice of the Martyrs’ daily radio broadcast to the Maldives can do so at www.vomkorea.com/en/donation.

Posted in Maldives, radio | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

VOMK Releases New John Ross Bible “Reader’s Edition” Gospel of Luke

Voice of the Martyrs Korea announced the official release of its new John Ross Bible “Reader’s Edition” Gospel of Luke at a press conference at its Jongneung office this week. Reporters were treated to a celebratory lunch of North Korean noodles prepared by some of Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s North Korean defector students.

2022 marks the 140-year anniversary of the release of the first portion of scripture ever translated into the Korean language: Missionary John Ross’ Gospel of Luke, first published in 1882 and smuggled into Korea from Moukden, China (today’s Shenyang).

“The Ross Bible is how the voice of Christ first came to ordinary Korean people,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley. “Ordinary Korean people deserve to hear that voice again today. The Ross Bible was completed before the Korean language was standardized, so in its original form it is not readable by modern Koreans. The new John Ross Bible ‘Reader’s Edition’ Gospel of Luke updates the text direction, word order, letters, grammar, and spelling so that modern readers can read it easily and understand it fully. It retains the full original wording and adds simple notes to briefly and clearly explain unfamiliar vocabulary.”

The Ross Bible “Reader’s Edition” Gospel of Luke is printed in the same size and shape as the original version, in a convenient and durable paperback format. “This reader’s edition is designed for easy, frequent reading and for tossing in your backpack to read on the subway, not for being displayed in a museum,” says Representative Foley. The Ross Bible “Reader’s Edition” Gospel of Luke is available for 10,000 KRW at https://vomkorea.com/product/ross-bible-luke/ or by phone at 02-2065-0703.

The Ross Bible Reader’s Edition Gospel of Luke is the first of three Ross Bible versions Voice of the Martyrs Korea will be releasing over the next two years. The organization is currently working on a Luke/John/Acts trilogy edition for publication in mid-2023 and a full Ross New Testament “Contemporary Reader’s Edition” for publication in 2024.

Voice of the Martyrs CEO Pastor Eric Foley says the goal of the publication of the Ross Bible is for Koreans both north and south to be able to experience the spiritual power of the original Korean Bible translation.

“Today, Korean Christians are able to read the Bible in a large number and variety of translations. Sadly, the one Bible that has not been available for them to read is the Bible that has been called the foundation of the Korean Church,” says Pastor Foley. “The Ross Bible was for the first two decades of Korean Christianity the only Hangul New Testament available to Koreans. It was the Bible of the Korean church during its formative period, and it left a permanent imprint on the Korean church in the form of a church that is Bible-centered and lay-driven. God used the Ross Bible powerfully to impart the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ to the first generation of Korean Christians even before missionaries arrived in Korea.”

According to Pastor Foley, previous republications of the Ross Bible have focused on use in commemorative displays or study by trained scholars, not ordinary Bible readers. “Our project is designed to more closely mirror the original one,” says Pastor Foley. “Then and now, the Ross Bible has always been the work of ordinary North Koreans, assisted by missionaries, to put the New Testament in an inexpensive paperback book format that ordinary Koreans can read. Though the work is meticulously done and documented, in the Reader’s Edition itself there are no complicated footnotes, no scholarly comments, no fancy printing or binding. Just the words of life, expressed in ordinary Korean words through the work of ordinary North Korean people who are learning to follow Christ.”

Respect for the Ross translation has continued to grow over the years. Richard Rutt of the British and Foreign Bible Society wrote, “The best piece of [Bible] translation work so far done in Korean was Ross’s.”

Pastor Foley said that his organization’s work in creating a “contemporary reader’s version” of the Ross Bible has given the participants in the project a deep appreciation for how sophisticated Ross’ translation process was. “Missionary Ross and his team may not have been professional Bible translators,” says Pastor Foley, “But when you read the detailed documentation of the steps they went through to ensure both the accuracy and the understandability of the translation, it’s clear that they had a professional process. And when you look at how the Ross translation fundamentally shaped the character of the Korean church, it’s clear that the process was guided by the Holy Spirit.”

Pastor Foley says that his own motivation for participating in the project comes from a desire to see that spirit return to the Korean church. “Missionary Ross had absolute trust in the sufficiency of scripture to reveal Christ fully. There’s a great story about Yi Song Ha, one of the earliest colporteurs, when he was trying to smuggle Bibles into Korea. He was staying at an inn on the border, and the innkeeper reported to the authorities that he had these books. So Yi had to quickly burn some of the books and then throw the rest in the Yalu River. He was sad and embarrassed to tell this to Missionary Ross. But Missionary Ross responded, ‘Whoever then drinks the waters of the Yalu or lives in the houses on which fall the ashes of burning Bibles will believe in Christ!’ And Ross was right: Christianity spread up and down the banks of the Yalu. Now, with Korean Christianity in decline, we need to recover Missionary Ross’ trust in the word of God. We hope the publication of the ‘Contemporary Reader’s Edition’ can accomplish that goal.”

Pastor Foley says that he has had the goal of publishing a reader’s edition since starting Voice of the Martyrs Korea twenty years ago, but that he and his wife and ministry co-founder Dr. Hyun Sook Foley found that it was a project that professional translators and publishers were reluctant to undertake. “Some told us there would be little popular interest in the book. Others told us that it might be too controversial to publish it. But to me, when I see Korean Christians reading the Message Bible or the Living Bible or some of the other popular new translations, how can it be that the only place to see a Ross Bible is in a museum and the only people who can read it are scholars of early Korean writings? The Ross Bible is how the voice of Christ first came to ordinary Korean people. Ordinary Korean people deserve to hear that voice again today, exactly as it first sounded—or as close to how it first sounded as possible.”

According to Pastor Foley, undertaking the project has required assembling a team and process similar to Ross’. “We have foreign missionaries and bilingual staff who are able to read Ross and McIntyre’s English language notes in order to help track down why certain words or phrases were used. We have people who can look at the Chinese versions that Ross’ team used, which is necessary for solving certain translation puzzles.”

But Pastor Foley says that the core members of the team are Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s North Korean students and constituents. “Since the Ross translation was originally done by Koreans from the north and west parts of the country, ordinary North Koreans of today actually can better understand some of the dialect and vocabulary than professional South Korean translators can.”

Pastor Foley says that the Ross Bible project has become the entire curriculum of both of Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s schools for North Korean defectors this year, just as it was for the North Koreans who came to Ross and McIntyre. “Now that we’ve been doing the project for a while, it’s easy to see why Missionary Ross discipled North Koreans by having them translate. Many of our North Korean students get completely absorbed in the work of updating the translation,” says Pastor Foley. “They will work intensely all day and into the evening without taking a break. It’s been the most effective form of ministry we’ve ever done with North Koreans. Missionary McIntyre wrote that during the translation process, his role was mainly to sit back and listen. That’s been our experience, too.”

Pastor Foley added, “I believe God has given North Koreans a particular anointing or gift or connection related to the Ross Bible. One of our North Korean students attends a North Korean defector congregation at a South Korean church. Some of the church members were skeptical about the project. So she stood up in front of the leaders and passionately shared with them how she encountered God in translating the Bible, and how important the project is to both North Koreans and South Koreans. There were South Koreans there who heard her, and they clapped enthusiastically. One said, ‘I have never heard any testimonies like this one before.’”

Pastor Foley emphasized that creating a “Contemporary Reader’s Version” of the Ross Bible is hard work. “It’s difficult to explain how long it takes, and how challenging it is for the participants,” says Pastor Foley. “The Ross Bible was done before the standardization of the Korean language, so the text represents every word phonetically. You have to sound out the word, figure out what it is, write it out, figure out how it is written today, figure out what the whole sentence is, figure out what words are obsolete, research those—literally every sentence is a challenge. But it drives all of us further into the text, and like our North Korean student said, that’s where you meet God.”

Voice of the Marytrs Korea offered samples of the Ross Bible Gospel of Luke compared to the Korean Revised Version.

Luke 5:5

(KRV/개역개정) ”시몬이 대답하여 이르되 선생님 우리들이 밤이 새도록 수고하였으되 잡은 것이 없지마는 말씀에 의지하여 내가 그물을 내리리이다 하고”

(Ross Contemporary Readers Version) ”시몬이 가로되 영감 우리 종야를 입부(수고)고 얻은 바 없으나 영감의 말로써 그물을 치리라 하고”

Luke 22:7

(KRV/개역개정) “유월절 양을 잡을 무교절날이 이른지라”

(Ross Contemporary Readers Version) “누륵금하는 날이 오니 넘는절 양 잡는 때라”

In addition to distribution in South Korea through the VOMK website and phone orders, Pastor Foley says Voice of the Martyrs Korea is already at work distributing the new Ross Bible Gospel of Luke in North Korea and wherever North Koreans are found.  “For the security of our colporteurs and our intended recipients, we are not able to specify the routes, the means, or the quantities, but we have made sure that North Koreans, the original readers of the Ross Bible, were the first to receive this new Reader’s Edition.”

The Ross Bible “Reader’s Edition” Gospel of Luke is available for 10,000 KRW at https://vomkorea.com/product/ross-bible-luke/  or by phone at 02-2065-0703.

Posted in Bible, John Ross | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

North Korean workers: “Kim Jong Un could not protect us but only in God we trust”

North Korean workers trapped in work assignments abroad due to COVID were forced to choose between placing their trust in God or the North Korean government. According to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr Hyun Sook Foley, God won.

Voice of the Martyrs Korea, an NGO which serves persecuted Christians worldwide, released letters it received this week from North Koreans working abroad who received audio Bibles during the COVID pandemic through the NGO’s distribution efforts. According to Representative Foley, the five letters reveal workers eagerly turning to God after being disillusioned by the lack of aid they received from the North Korean government and local authorities during the pandemic.

“The letters come from workers in different locations over the past few months but all exhibit the same pattern,” says Representative Foley. “NK workers saw other NK workers get infected with COVID-like symptoms; their NK government minders did not take them to the hospital or cover their medical costs but instead required them to use their own earnings if they wanted medical care; the NK workers indicated they would rather die than give up the little money they had earned for their families back home; so the NK workers decided to put their trust in the God they heard about in the audio Bibles they received from our team. They received as a gift from God the medicines and other materials that we provided along with the audio Bibles.”

“One worker put it like this: ‘Kim Jong Un could not protect us but only in God we trust.’”

Representative Foley quoted a letter from one worker at length to describe the situation of NK workers abroad during the pandemic:

“For the past several months, in our unit, [number withheld for security reasons] comrades have died. It seems their symptoms are just like Covid19. They were all infected with pneumonia-like symptoms but never went to hospital and died in this foreign land. With my eyes open, we could not bear to see their death. We would rather die than going to hospital if we have to spend the whole money that we have earned and saved up for the past year. It is too expensive without insurance. It is such a miserable reality. Therefore, there is nothing these sick people would do besides relying on God and asking Him for mercy. I am praying in my heart for the [X] comrades who died in a beautiful young age. I ask God for no more pain in their life in heaven. In truth, there is no good hospital we could go. We would rather go to back to Chosun and visit NK doctors. There are so many patients but nothing we could do, so that we just keep praying for them. We are distributing audio Bibles in secret to these sick people in hoping that they might receive comfort from the Bible. We believe that seeing and listening to the Words will greatly help them overcome the pain and disease. I also happened to think that it is truly miserable if people die without knowing God.”

Representative Foley says that Voice of the Martyrs Korea supplies audio and printed 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. The Bibles are individually distributed directly to recipients, often as part of small care packages containing other items like masks, medicines, and hygiene items. She says that the distribution is done by underground Christians from North Korea and the other countries where Voice of the Martyrs Korea reaches North Koreans.

According to Representative Foley, Christians doing the distribution became so concerned by the COVID cases they saw among NK workers that they took the risky step of bringing in local doctors and additional medicines to aid the workers.

“One NK worker who received help from us described the situation like this,” says Representative Foley, quoting from one of the letters: “In [country name removed for security reasons], we want to get good treatment, but the NK person in charge of the factory does not give us proper treatment because it is expensive. So, we just pray to God for giving our comrades healing and delivering from pain. This is the only thing we could do. Thankfully, the [local VOMK worker] sent a doctor with medication, so that we are recovering now. We all think that this is from God.”

Representative Foley says that while the North Korean government’s COVID lockdown has prevented many North Korean workers from returning home, the longer stays have given NK workers opportunities more time to access materials not available to them inside North Korea. She quotes from one NK worker who wrote, “The [country name removed] holiday is very long but we were not able to leave the factory. But it turned out that it was an opportunity for us to know about God deeply.”

Representative Foley says that the letters were written over the summer months and were received by Voice of the Martyrs Korea this week. The remaining 4 letters are shown here, with slight redactions to ensure the safety of the writers.

“For the past several months, in our unit, [number removed for security reasons] comrades have died. It seems their symptoms are just like Covid19. They were all infected with pneumonia-like symptoms but never went to hospital and died in this foreign land. With my eyes open, we could not bear to see their death. We would rather die than going to hospital if we have to spend the whole money that we have earned and saved up for the past year. It is too expensive without insurance. It is such a miserable reality. Therefore, there is nothing these sick people would do besides relying on God and asking Him for mercy. I am praying in my heart for the [number removed] comrades who died in a beautiful young age. I ask God for no more pain in their life in heaven. In truth, there is no good hospital we could go. We would rather go to back to Chosun and visit NK doctors. There are so many patients but nothing we could do, so that we just keep praying for them. We are distributing audio Bibles in secret to these sick people in hoping that they might receive comfort from the Bible. We believe that seeing and listening to the Words will greatly help them overcome the pain and disease. I also happened to think that it is truly miserable if people die without knowing God.”  

My hometown is not far away from here, but it feels so far away. As I spent the [Korean Thanksgiving] holiday in this foreign land where I have no freedom, I miss the freedom-less hometown where I could at least travel in my town. I just spent the holiday here in the factory and experiencing the entertainment party which was not fun at all. I was sad during the holiday as I was thinking about my parents and brothers at hometown, but as seeing and listening to the Bible in secret, I got to think a lot. It was sad, but not really sad, I now think. I believe that there must be a reason why God is giving me this hardship. After having faith, I have learned how to overcome pain and sadness with joy. I give thanks to God through whom I realized this.

Greetings, How are you doing? We are well here. We have several comrades who recovered from the Covid19 in our factory. We worried much about them who kept coughing and feeling pain in their chest. Comrade A and B are not able to work well because of their sickness. In [country name removed for security reasons], we want to get good treatment, but the NK person in charge of the factory does not give us proper treatment because it is expensive. So, we just pray to God for giving our comrades healing and delivering from pain. This is the only thing we could do. Thankfully, the [country name removed for security reasons] man sent a doctor with medication, so that we are recovering now. We all think that this is from God. We are truly thankful to God. Kim Jong Un could not protect us but only in God we trust. We are thankful with all our hearts to give us this opportunity.


Greetings, I am writing this letter with great fear. I just received Jesus God. I only knew Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un. I thought they are the only ones in this world. My head is full of confusion now but the more I hear the Bible, the more I am drawn to. There is nothing I could do besides praying to God in this difficult season. Thank you for the delicious food and medication that you sent to us.”

During [Korean Thanksgiving], with my friends, we truly enjoyed the SK ramen that the [country name removed] man sent to us. Even though I am away from my families and parents in this foreign land during [Korean Thanksgiving], with the food and my comrades, it was joyful. Especially, the ramen that God sent to us was filled with God’s love. The [country name withheld] holiday is very long but we were not able to leave the factory. But it turned out that it was an opportunity for us to know about God deeply. I was not expecting to know God in this foreign land. His Being is too precious to us, and our hearts are trembling at Him. I pray for my parents and friends in [location removed for security reasons] and for myself. I feel no lonelier and in pain because I now know that God hears our prayers and watches us whenever and wherever we are through the power of prayer. We are also thankful for you who pray for us from far away.”

Representative Foley says that for the safety of its workers and the Bible recipients, Voice of the Martyrs Korea no longer releases the specific quantity of Bibles distributed each year, or the media or methods by which they are distributed. “Generally we distribute 40,000 to 50,000 North Korean dialect Bibles a year in print and electronic formats to North Korean citizens outside of South Korea, though distribution has increased significantly during the pandemic as North Koreans seek the kind of hope and stability that are only found in Christ,” she says. She notes that the Bible is also read daily on Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s five shortwave and AM radio broadcasts.

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:

  • 한국 VOM 웹사이트: www.vomkorea.com/en/donation   
  • 계좌이체: 국민은행 463501-01-243303, 예금주: (사)순교자의소리
Posted in North Korea | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment