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Rally in North Korea worth risk, Warren tells ‘Nightline’

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)–Despite risks of personal safety and the possibility of being used for propaganda purposes by dictator Kim Jong Il, Rick Warren told a national television audience July 13 he will proceed with plans to hold a rally in North Korea next year.

“Of course, people can use you,” said Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” during an appearance on ABC News’ “Nightline.”

“The issue is: Is it worth it? Is it worth it to go ahead and help people find meaning and hope in Jesus Christ and purpose for their life and eternal salvation? Is that worth it in order to be criticized, misunderstood and even used? In my hands, I said, ‘Absolutely.’”

Next week, Warren will travel to North Korea to meet with the organizers of a rally scheduled for March 2007. ABC’s Dan Harris questioned Warren about the wisdom of traveling to a country where Il has mistreated millions and allowed hundreds of thousands of citizens to starve to death. Harris also asked whether the North Korean regime might point to Warren’s rally as evidence of religious toleration, although very little real religious freedom exists.

“I called a bunch of advisers, people that I trust, and prayed about it,” Warren said. “And [in] the final analysis I thought, ‘When somebody goes into a country that has tended to be closed to Christianity or religion, it can’t help but provide more of an openness and provide visibility.”

Warren added that he will cancel the rally if he sees any signs that his speech will be limited or that his visit will make the lives of North Korean Christians worse, according to ABC News.

Warren conducted the Nightline interview from South Korea, where he arrived July 12 for meetings with government, political and church leaders, according to his blog at rickwarren.com. He planned to conduct training events for pastors and evangelistic events at outdoor stadiums in Seoul and Busan.

After speaking to U.S. troops at a military base near the Demilitarized Zone, his team plans to cross the border July 17 to meet with church and business leaders in Kaesong. Contrary to previous media reports, the visit to the Democratic People’s Republic is not a preaching mission.

“We are going simply to meet with leadership in preparation for a March 2007 speaking engagement,” Warren wrote on the blog. “That visit will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Pyongyang Revival, which began as a men’s Bible study in January 1907 and spread like wildfire to all the churches in Pyongyang, then continued to sweep across the peninsula until June. Some have called it the greatest manifestation of the Holy Spirit since the days of the Book of Acts -– greater even than the historic revivals in Wales and India.”