According to Open Doors, USA, several defectors from North Korea have noted their sympathies for the North Korean people, whom they say will be forced to cry over their leader’s death, reports Mission Network News. One defector said he was forced to do as much when Kim Jong-Il’s father, Kim Il-Sung, died in 1994. “I remember standing in front of his [Kim Il-Sung's] statue and feeling nothing,” said the refugee. “But we had to cry or we would be punished. I brought a needle and punched it in my skin really hard, just so I would cry. I think that most of the people who weep for Kim Jong-Il in public are acting.” Another defector added, “I am just happy I do not have to stand in line to cry like a madman. Some just act like they are sad, but others are genuinely ignorant. I was ignorant about the Kims once, too.” Though few are mourning his death, it is hard for many to believe that the man they were forced to worship as a god—and who oversaw the killing and imprisonment of thousands of Christians—is gone. Some are eager to hope for a new beginning for North Korea, but others are more skeptical. “Just because the ‘absolute power’ has collapsed, it does not mean the whole building will tumble,” noted one refugee. “Those who have already tasted the power will not easily give up what they have. They will fight. I hope a new and uncorrupt leader will arise. God has not forgotten the prayers of devoted Christians in and outside of North Korea. One day Korea will be one again, and I hope we are ready when that happens.” Open Doors urges Christians to pray for North Korea and the estimated 400,000 Christians there during this time of uncertainty. “Pray that the Gospel would spread now more than ever, and that a new leader would allow it to happen.”

Other news:

  • A group of Christian and Jewish leaders gathered in front of the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations in New York City Wednesday to appeal to Iraqi authorities about the escalating violence against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq, reports The Christian Post. Led by Dr. Paul de Vries, president of the New York Divinity School, the leaders spoke briefly with Ambassador Hamid Al-Bayati, permanent representative of Iraq to the United Nations, bringing the diplomat’s attention to the plight of Iraq’s religious minorities, who have been facing escalating violence since the U.S. invasion of the country in 2003. The interfaith group sought to impress upon Al-Bayati the need for the government to protect its people, especially now that U.S. troops have left the country. The Christian leaders emphasized that the Christmas season is a particularly dangerous time of year for the Christian community, as terrorist organizations have targeted Christian holiday services in the Middle East in the past and have specifically recommended attacks on churches. The U.S. invasion, which overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein, made the life of local Christians and other non-Muslim minorities worse, according to multiple sources. The nationalist dictator reportedly held sectarian violence at a distance, but since the American occupation began, many non-Muslim groups have been experiencing violent attacks, including the bombing of a Baghdad church in October 2010 that killed 58 congregants. At least 54 Iraqi churches have been bombed and at least 905 Christians killed in various acts of violence since 2003, The Wall Street Journal reported recently. Many Christians were forced to leave the country, according to a recent study by Minority Rights Group International; as many as 900,000 might have fled since 2003. Some fear that the Christian population—which includes not only converts from Islam, but the indigenous population of Assyrian Christians—might end up being completely wiped out of Iraq. The Iraqi ambassador could not receive the group in his office, due to prior arrangements, he said. De Vries said he would try to get the group an official hearing with the ambassador in the near future, to bring even more attention to Dec. 25 being particularly dangerous for Christian minorities in the region.
  • A pro-family activist says a U.S. Department of Justice lawyer’s arguments against the Defense of Marriage Act further enforces the Obama administration’s desire for support from the homosexual lobby. Assistant Attorney General Tony West argued for lesbian federal employee Karen Golinski in a San Francisco court. West, a senior lawyer who heads the civil division of the Department of Justice, argued that DOMA bars Golinski from obtaining health insurance for her “wife.” The attorney’s oral arguments are the first since the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend the marriage law. Peter LaBarbera is the president of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality. “The federal law is clear,” he told OneNewsNow. “The government treats only real married couples—[marriages] between a man and a woman. It does not allow marital benefits to flow to homosexual couples.” According to LaBarbera, homosexual activists know they have to overturn the federal marriage law to attain their goals. “And that’s why they are doing anything they can—through the courts or legislatively or through Barack Obama’s bully pulpit—to overturn DOMA,” he explains, “because they know that DOMA stands in the way of federal homosexual benefits for so-called ‘gay married’ couples.” Golinski married Amy Cunninghis during the window where same-sex marriage was legal in California. Golinski filed a lawsuit against the government because she could not enroll Cunninghis on her family health insurance plan. “This is all about electoral politics,” concluded LaBarbera. “Barack Obama is banking on the strong support of the homosexual lobby and also the money of the homosexual lobby.” LaBarbera, also founder of Republicans for Family Values,  does not think that the position of presidential hopeful Mitt Romney  is a strong one, reports onenewsnow.com. Romney said, “I am firmly in support of people not being discriminated against based upon their sexual orientation. At the same time, I oppose same-sex marriage. That’s been my position from the beginning.” La Barbera commented, “He offers this sort of weak and timid defense of the federal marriage amendment. He has supported domestic partnership laws for homosexual couples, civil union laws.” And the pro-family advocate points out that Mitt Romney recently indicated that he would do nothing to change the decision of Barack Obama and the lame-duck 111th Congress to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military. “Mitt Romney has repudiated the Republican Party platform on homosexuals in the military. Ironically, he’s a bad Mormon,” LaBarbera suggested. “He doesn’t even stand for the Mormon’s church teachings on homosexuality, although those are starting to soften in some areas.”
  • The Hempfield-based Presbytery of Redstone, which oversees more than 15,000 practicing Presbyterians in Western Pennsylvania, is suing a Ligonier church for allegedly ignoring internal procedures for withdrawing from the presbytery, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Westmoreland County, officials said the Covenant Presbyterian Church has refused to comply with the steps required to leave the Presbyterian Church USA, which is the national organization that monitors 79 affiliated churches in Westmoreland, Fayette, Cambria, and Somerset counties. The Ligonier church has announced it intends to affiliate with the more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which opposes the ordination of gay ministers. Steve Benz, interim presbyter of Redstone, said the Ligonier church issued a list of reasons for its wanting to withdraw from the organization, including opposition to the national policy that allows gays in the pulpit and in church leadership positions. “They had a list of reasons for leaving,” Benz said. Covenant Presbyterian Church has about 425 members, Benz said. In court documents, the national organization contends that the Ligonier church failed to comply with requirements that would allow Redstone to question members to see if any wanted to keep the current affiliation. The Ligonier church also ignored a requirement to turn over its financial records, the lawsuit alleges. Last month, Redstone voted to seize the keys of the church to thwart the move to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, saying it first needed to assess church members’ desires and the church’s finances before allowing the move. The organization wants a county judge to issue an injunction to compel the Ligonier church to turn over the keys and financial and membership records. It also wants the judge to enjoin the church from transferring its assets to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, pending the outcome of the lawsuit. Andrea Geraghty, the lawyer representing Covenant Presbyterian Church, said her clients have the right to change their affiliation and would defend themselves against the lawsuit. “Covenant Presbyterian Church followed appropriate procedures to disaffiliate from the PC USA and affiliate with a denomination with beliefs more in line with those of its members,” Geraghty said. The Ligonier church wants to become the third in the area to transfer to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in the last five years, Benz said. The congregation of St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church near Somerset split off in 2008 and, more recently, members of Fort Palmer Church in Fairfield left the presbytery.
  • Sixty pro-life leaders and heads of faith-based organizations have signed off on a letter to President Barack Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, protesting the very narrow exemption to the health insurance contraceptives mandate, reports LifeNews.com. The mandate has upset pro-life groups that don’t want to be forced to provide health insurance coverage that pays for contraception, birth control drugs, or drugs like the morning after pill, Plan B, and ella that can cause abortions in some circumstances. They have objected to a very narrow set of exemptions for religious groups that don’t adequately allow all faith-based organizations to opt out of providing such coverage. Signatories of the letter include Protestant and orthodox Jewish leaders representing many religious colleges and universities, K–12 schools, grassroots faith-based organizations, denominations, law associations, rescue missions, and more.
  • Despite Saudi Arabia’s promises to clean up textbooks in the kingdom, recent editions continue to raise alarms in the West over jihadist language. The recent editions were obtained by the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington, D.C., and the translations were first provided to Fox News. “This is where terrorism starts, in the education system.” Ali Al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, told Fox News. Al-Ahmed, a Saudi national, said the textbooks, made and paid for by the Saudi government, were smuggled out of the kingdom through confidential sources. In a textbook for 10th-graders, printed for the 2010–2011 academic year, al-Ahmed said teenagers are taught barbaric practices. “They show students how to cut [the] hand and the feet of a thief,” he said. In another textbook, for ninth-graders, the students are taught the annihilation of the Jewish people is imperative. One text reads in part, “The hour [of judgment] will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them. . . . There is a Jew behind me come and kill him.” According to the textbook translations provided to Fox News, women are described as weak and irresponsible. And al-Ahmed said the textbooks call for homosexuals to be put to death “because they pose a danger at society, as the Saudi school books teaches.”
  • In a victory for the Home School Legal Defense Association, the Probate Court of Marquette County, Mich., has granted HSLDA’s motion to dismiss the prosecution of Ken and Erin Stieler for medical neglect. The Stielers had refused to continue chemotherapy for their son, Jacob, after surgery and the first phase of treatment resulted in clear PET scans. Circuit court judge Thomas Solka ruled Wednesday that the family had not neglected their son by refusing to continue with additional rounds of chemotherapy. He recognized that the parents were behaving reasonably by weighing the less-than-certain chance of cure with the risks of very serious side effects. He also placed reliance on HSLDA’s argument that three of the five chemotherapy drugs had not been FDA-approved as safe and effective for pediatric sarcoma.
  • The 63-foot Sierra White Fir at the U.S. Capitol Grounds, the 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree, includes a prominently displayed ornament paying homage to President Barack Obama, but includes no ornament readily visible to a person standing near the tree’s base that uses the word “Christmas,” includes an image of the Nativity, or bears the name or image of Jesus Christ. On the north side of the tree—at a height of about 4 feet and easily visible to people standing near it—is an ornament that says: “I ♥ President Obama.” When asked whether the tree included any ornaments that mention or depict Christmas or the birth of Jesus, the office of the Architect of the Capitol, which is responsible for the tree, told CNSNews.com that it “does not have a policy nor any restrictions concerning the themes for the ornaments” that go on the tree. The office could not say, however, whether or not this year’s Christmas tree does in fact include even a single ornament that directly references or depicts Christmas or Christ.
  • Georgia has a new TEA Party senator in the Georgia legislature. On Dec. 15, Mike Crane was sworn in as the 28th District State Senator at the Newnan historic courthouse before a crowd of supporters, reports Patriot Update. In an off-election year, this TEA Party conservative won the senate seat over a much better funded and moderate Republican Duke Blackburn. His victory underlies a dichotomy becoming more apparent within the GOP, and his election could be a foreshadowing of things to come at next year’s elections. The 28th seat on the State Senate became vacant a few months ago when Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal appointed former Sen. Mitch Seabaugh to a new position in his administration as deputy state treasurer, requiring him to vacate and hold a special election. The district for that special election includes Coweta, Carroll, Troup, and Heard counties at the middle-west edge of Georgia along the Alabama border and has almost 200,000 residents. Mike Crane ran on a ticket of small, fiscally responsible and constitutional government, frequently quoting from passages of The Federalist Papers in his speeches. An unashamed Christian, he spoke about the need for citizens to be mindful of their family responsibilities before God rather than looking for the government to bail them out. A homeschool father, he spoke about the need for school choice. In a speech before the Coweta County TEA Party the week before the election, he also called for citizens to live responsibly rather than cede their liberties to the civil government.
  • The U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Children and Families held a hearing Dec. 13 on S. 1877, a bill to require all adults to be mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect. The Home School Legal Defense Association says it believes that this bill will create a police-state reporting environment that will lead to baseless investigations of innocent families and actually hurt at-risk children. Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey and California Sen. Barbara Boxer introduced S. 1877, the “Speak Up to Protect Every Abused Kid Act,” in response to the tragic occurrences at Penn State University. HSLDA believes that while the purpose behind this bill is well-intentioned, it will actually lead to greater federal involvement in social services investigations, which will hurt innocent families and make it even harder for social services agencies to find and help truly at-risk children. Additionally, the federal requirement that every single American adult act as a mandatory reporter will create a police-state environment of reporting on friends, family, and neighbors.