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Why We Say "Let My People Go"



For anyone who has been praying for freedom in North Korea and for quick release of refugees in China, the progress has been slow. Only about 30 refugees have come to the US since the passage of North Korea Human Rights Act of 2004, the North Korea-China border has been fortified, making it very difficult for North Koreans to flee the country, and North Korean women and girls are still being sold into sex slavery. To make matters worse, there is still very little interest by the public, no mention of human rights violation in high level talks with North Korea, and no public pressure for China to recognize North Koreans within its borders as refugees and to stop sending them back to North Korea for a certain death in one of its many gulags.

When Nehemiah heard about the distressing situation of his own people, he not only wept, fasted and prayed, he also took concrete action to solve the problem. Like Nehemiah, we must pray and take action.

During the 1960s, the government of the former Soviet Union severely restricted the emigration of Soviet Jews. Jewish Americans launched a successful banner campaign called "Let My People Go," culminating in the passage of Jackson-Vanik amendment to the 1974 Trade Act. This amendment would deny normal trade relations with the Soviet Union if it continued to restrict emigration rights. The decades-long campaign eventually resulted in the release of a million Soviet Jews to Israel and 500,000 to the US.

KCC and Jericho Institute are launching a similar banner campaign to demand the release of North Korean refugees from China. The banner campaign will also demand that the Chinese government put a stop to the human trafficking and repatriation of North Korean refugees.

In the months leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the banners will be displayed by a coalition of Protestant and Catholic Churches, synagogues and human rights organizations. The banners are intended to raise public awareness and to demand that the Chinese government recognize the refugee status of North Koreans within its borders.

In confronting human rights crisis like the genocide in Darfur, Elie Wiesel said, "We must scream and remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all." Whenever we face human oppression and suffering, we must not remain silent. Join us and become a voice of love, faith, and hope.