The Religious Defector


Found at YouTube

“We appreciate you allowing us to interview you, Mr. Kwon.”

“Not at all, Ms. Singer. It is a pleasure to be here, to be able to tell my story.”

The middle-aged gentleman was dressed casually in a button down checkered shirt and jeans. He looked uncomfortable in the television studio but the reporter, Judith Singer, tried to put him at ease.

“Just tell us your experiences in your own words.” Her tone was soft, gentle really. She leaned forward slightly to indicate interest but not enough to block the television camera. Off to one side, she could see the wall mounted monitor that displayed what the audience was seeing. The dialogue was translated and projected as subtitles because he didn’t speak the same language as most of the audience.

“My country is officially atheist. Except for the show church in the nation’s capital that tourists visit, our religion is illegal, well, all religion actually, but especially any public Christian worship.

“There were only nine of us in our church. Sometimes we met in different homes but that was dangerous to the residents. Often we would go on hikes and worship in the wilderness areas. In the summer we could go into the nearby mountains and worship by streams, but in winter it was very cold where we lived, so we would find a cave for shelter. We dared not light a fire for fear the smoke would be seen and the authorities would come.

“We had only one Bible and it had belonged to the Grandfather of one of our members, hidden away when the State first made our faith forbidden. We couldn’t raise our voices in services or sing out loud. At work or even with our families, we had to hide who we were, we had to be invisible. This was hard because we also felt compelled to do mission work, even though our existence was supposed to be secret. It could mean the death penalty if we were found out.”

“Mr. Kwon, there is an estimated one million Christians living just in the western part of your country. It’s amazing they can all stay hidden from your government.”

“One million, Ms. Singer.” Kwon smiled slightly, a melancholy expression came over his face. “I didn’t know that. It’s hard to believe, but then we have been promised that a remnant will always be sustained.”

“Tell our audience about your imprisonment.”

“It is not easy, but I’ll try.” Kwon took a deep breath, determination rewriting the muscles of his face, his posture, he momentarily clenched his fists.

“I was arrested nine years ago. There was no trial. I was immediately sent to the State Prison and interrogated about my faith. They wanted me to inform on other Christians. I suppose that’s how they found out about me, through an informer. I was tortured and to my shame, I continued to deny I was a Christian. I know now how Peter felt, the look on Christ’s face as he was denied by the apostle right before the crucifixion.”

The older man seemed on the verge of breaking down into tears. Judith reached out with her hand as if to comfort him.

“No, it’s alright.” He waved her hand off and she resumed her former posture.

He collected his emotions like tiny beads, restricting them to the hiding place in which they normally resided.

“I was transferred to a penal colony. We were served only a small amount of rations per day, usually a thin corn porridge. Many of us were on the verge of starvation. We hunted rats and snakes, even searched through animal dung for undigested seeds.

“The torture was…innovative. There was something called ‘pigeon torture.’ My hands were bound to a wall about two feet off the floor, forcing me to crouch for up to twelve hours at a time. I was also forced to stand on my toes in a tank of water filled up to my nose for twenty-four hours. It is excruciating, having to extend your legs and feet for so long. The water was freezing. Whenever exhaustion overcame me, I nearly drowned.”

“How did you escape, Mr. Kwon?”

“I’m afraid I can’t reveal the details. Too many people risked their lives for me.” He paused, stifling tears, almost overwhelming emotion forced back down into his chest. Recovering again, he continued, “I suppose you could call it an Underground Railroad, although given where I come from, I find the phrase tragically ironic.

“Of course, Mr. Kwon.”

“I was eventually smuggled out of my country and through several others until I could apply for sanctuary in your nation. I know your country is small and you cannot absorb all of us who manage to escape, but we hope that you can help us build a place where we can be free to worship our God, just as you are free to worship here, Ms. Singer.”

“I understand your application for asylum was granted so you are now a permanent resident. Do you have anything else to say to our audience.”

“Yes. First of all, every human being must have the right to freedom, regardless of religion, race, or anything else. In my country, there is no freedom. Religion is illegal. There is no free press, just the official publication of the State. Not like your country at all. Life in the United States of America is hell. Here in Israel, it is heaven.”

“Thank you for your time and candor, Mr. Kwon.”

The reporter turned to the camera. “That was Mr. Alexander Jacob Kwon telling his story about the persecution of Christians in the United States to The Israel News Network. This is Judith Singer. Thank you for watching.”

This morning, I read a news article called North Korean defector describes ‘life of hell’ for Christians written by Perry Chiaramonte for Fox News, though I saw the story published at

I doubt that the U.S. would ever morph into something like North Korea over issues of religion, a free press, or anything else, but it certainly seems that there is a national secular war against Christians in the news media and entertainment industry. In fact, Hollywood seems distinctly anti-Christian for whatever reason, real or perceived. I did discover a list of Christian actors online, and I was surprised that there were almost fifty of them, some being what you’d call “A-listers” (although I’m not sure how accurate the list is since it includes Jane Fonda, and is Alec Baldwin’s brother Steven actually a Christian? Also, Mel Gibson’s brand of Christianity gives me pause to say the least).

I tend to write dystopian stories as cautionary tales. Advocate for only one sort of bias in the news and you have the “State news” (aka, CNN, MSNBC, et al…and Fox News is just as guilty of bias, just in a different direction). Advocate for total freedom from religion, and religion of any kind becomes the Enemy of the State.

All those who advocate for “inclusion” and “tolerance” cannot exclude people of faith from the human community without their advocacy becoming a farce.

Like I said, I doubt my wee tale will ever become a reality in my country, but then again, to prevent it, we must continually support everyone’s freedom, including the freedom of people of faith.

Oh, by the way, the tortures I described in my story actually were suffered by the Christian North Korean defector Choi Kwanghyuk, so although America may not persecute Christians, North Korea and many other countries do. Please keep that in mind if you believe that western nations would be more benign if they became Communist.

7 thoughts on “The Religious Defector

  1. He collected his emotions like tiny beads, restricting them to the hiding place in which they normally resided.

    Well said.

    Why is the term “Underground Railroad” ironic for Mr. Kwon (to you)?


    • As you know, the term “underground railroad” was used by people from the Northern US to convey free slaves, but in my story, all of the US enslaves people.


  2. Oh. I quickly skimmed the last few paragraphs. Sorry about that; totally missed that you had it as an American leaving a situation like North Korea. I’d thought you had done more of a true sort of historical (but contemporary) fiction. And then I more closely read whatever you would call the ending notes (in italics).

    I guess Bannon runs the potential future “State news”, which already has a significant fan base under its thrall along with some FOX folk and would make this scenario more likely. Besides a greater acceptance of torture, the current overdone prison population would likely expand. He, by the way, calls himself a Leninist.


    • The caveat is that all religious worship, including Christianity, is illegal and punishable by torture and death. For every Hitler there is a Stalin, so it could go both ways, I guess.


      • It can go many ways… not only a “both” ways. I only added the caveat I did because I didn’t want to appear to have missed that you made religion a part of your story, a main feature of it. Really, religion is almost irrelevant to despotic culture — that can happen with or without religion. So I really didn’t want to add that last post, but felt I almost had to. So, that post was about the caveat under Bannon (et al.) world.

        You know, Santa (and Jesus) will be white, and saying merry Christmas will be the eleventh commandment (not just recognized as something people like to do already).

        But, yes, there should freedom of religion and press and so forth. And there is.


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