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Open Doors - Secret Children 1 - May 2011

They never get three wishes, never get any happy ever afters, or fairy tale endings

Let me tell you one of their stories ...

Once Upon a Time ... there were seven children

No. Wrong start.

It’s the right start for a fairy tale, but this is real life and, truth to tell, there aren’t just seven children, but millions – thirty million – around one-third of the persecuted church. Thirty million children, the sons and daughters of oppressed Christians around the world, the hidden victims of persecution.

Where do they come from? All over the world: North Korea and Algeria and Pakistan, the Philippines, Egypt, Colombia, too many places. They grow up in Christian homes, or their parents become Christians, or they make their own choice to follow Jesus – but they have one thing in common: they pay a price for their faith.

• Some are killed.
• Some are orphans, their parents martyred.
• Some are separated, father or mother imprisoned or in labour camps.
• Some are rejected by society or family – denied education, employment, healthcare.
• Some are refugees, fleeing danger and violence, uprooted, miles from the home they have known.
• Some just disappear. Taken from their homes and forcibly married, or conscripted as child soldiers, dissolved into the lost and the missing.

They are the secret children, the sons and daughters of the Persecuted Church. They never get three wishes, never get any happy ever afters, or fairy tale endings.

And the suffering for their parents is just as intense. Every day Christian mothers and fathers face an excruciating choice: between staying faithful to Jesus or protecting their children; between raising their children as Christians or keeping them physically safe. 

The price of commitment to Christ is paid by both parents and children.

Millions of children out there, suffering, hurt, alone – criminalised because they are Christians. Each of them has their own tale to tell, their own story of triumph and disaster, fear and faith.

The Story of ... the Wandering Swallow

Jong-Cheol was just 11 when, somehow, he escaped from North Korea into China. Who knows how long he had been wandering for? He was nothing more than a kotjebi – a North Korean word for ‘wandering swallow’ – derogatory slang for street children, considered parasites on society.

There are many flocks of these ‘wandering swallows’ in North Korea, thousands upon thousands of children whose families have been destroyed by famine, illness, arrest or even execution.

Children who lose their parents are sent to orphanages or children’s detention facilities, or they flit about the streets, flocking together in gangs.

One set of clothes, no shoes on their feet (they sold those), they survive by begging, stealing. The police hunt them down, send them off to state orphanages, but some would rather fly to their deaths: “I saw children jumping from windows, because they couldn’t take it anymore,” one child said.

Jong-Cheol was a kotjebi – a wandering swallow who, somehow, had flown to safety in China. He came to the attention of Open Doors, who gave him food and housed him with a Christian family. There he became a Christian.

One day, he was with other North Korean children, near a hotel frequented by South Korean businessmen. Jong-Cheol and the other swallows were caught, taken back to North Korea, where they were interrogated and beaten. After a while most of them were released back onto the streets.

One boy even escaped back across the border.

An Open Doors worker found him and asked him what happened. “When the guards asked if we had become Christians in China, Jong-Cheol didn’t deny it,” the boy said. “So what happened to him?” the man asked.

“Jong-Cheol didn’t survive. He laid down his life for Jesus.”


North Korea is the hardest place in the world to be a Christian. Parents and children can pay the ultimate price for their faith. Many children lose their parents to malnutrition, disease or the labour camps. They end up on the streets, or are sent to state-run orphanages – squalid death-traps from which many never emerge.


Open Doors supplies needy Christians in North Korea, including children, with emergency aid, such as food, clothing and medicines.

Through the Secret Children campaign we aim to transform the lives of 10,000 children.

Financial support will help us to provide children with Bibles, schools and medical aid; train and resource teachers; support trauma counselling; and help protect children from the storm of persecution.

• £11 would pay for one child to stay at the Open Doors children’s centre in Colombia for a day

• £21 could train a Sunday School teacher to share the love and hope of Jesus

• £95 could teach a young Christian to read, giving dignity and a future.

To read more of the stories of the secret children and to make a donation go to:

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