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Corker stands with SBC on North Korea

WASHINGTON (BP) — The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has expressed his agreement with a Southern Baptist Convention resolution’s condemnation of “religious persecution and human rights violations in North Korea.”

Sen. Bob Corker, R.-Tenn., also said he is working to “highlight the deplorable human rights situation of the North Korean people.”

“I join the SBC in strongly condemning the violations of international human rights and the lack of religious freedom in North Korea,” Corker told Baptist Press in written comments. The SBC resolution, which was adopted during the convention’s annual meeting this summer and has since been distributed to some members of Congress, represents a form of “civic engagement” that is “incredibly important and absolutely makes a difference for those of us who hold elected office and are responsive to the concerns of our constituents.”

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SBC messengers, gathered in Columbus, Ohio, “appeal[ed] to [dictator] Kim Jong Un and the government of North Korea to respect and ensure human rights for all individuals as obligated both by biblical teaching and the international covenants to which it is a State Party.”

The resolution “urge[d] President Barack Obama and both houses of the US Congress to do all they can to pressure the government of North Korea to respect the dignity and religious freedom of all its citizens” and called for prayer “that God will turn the heart of Kim Jong Un to Himself and that President Kim might grant to all the people of North Korea the respect they deserve as God’s creation.”

North Korea — named by persecution watchdog Open Doors as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians for the past 13 years — has sent thousands of Christians to its political prison camps, estimated at 50,000-70,000 by Open Doors. The SBC resolution notes that “an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 Christians in North Korea remain at grave risk of persecution.”

Corker said the U.S. must “regain the initiative and work more effectively to isolate the North Korean regime.” A “long-term reauthorization for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom” (USCIRF) would help the U.S. government combat religious liberty violations in North Korea and elsewhere, he said.

USCIRF — a nine-member, bipartisan panel — researches conditions for religious freedom overseas and makes policy recommendations to Congress, the White House and the State Department. The panel’s authority is set to expire Sept. 30 unless Congress extends it.

Corker called North Korea’s human rights record “abhorrent.”

“North Korea’s abhorrent human rights record, continued development of nuclear weapons and cyber threats are all major concerns that demand a more serious focus from Congress and the administration,” he said. “We’re looking at options to enhance our toolkit to help address the threat posed by North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction programs and provide hope to the oppressed people of North Korea for a better future.”