April 12th, 2013
03:47 PM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – In light of threatening statements from North Korea, famed evangelist Franklin Graham says prayer is a viable option for cooling tensions between the communist country and the rest of the world.
“First of all, I think we need to pray,” Graham, the CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian humanitarian organization, said in an interview on CNN’s “Starting Point.” “We need to pray for our president, we need to pray that God will give him wisdom as he makes decision at this point. This is a very critical time, right now, for our country and we need to come behind our president and support him with prayer.”
Through Samaritan’s Purse, an organization founded in 1970, Graham has visited North Korea four times over the last 13 years. The group’s slogan is “Helping in Jesus Name” and it describes itself as a “Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.”
Tensions with North Korea began to rise last month, as the rogue state began issuing increasingly threatening statement towards its Asian neighbors and the United States. Most recently it was uncovered that North Korea may be able to deliver a nuclear weapon via missile with low reliability, according to the Pentagon.
The conflict has been headline news around the globe and captivated the attention of many Americans.
According to a recent CNN poll, worries about the country’s nuclear capabilities are at an all-time high. According to the survey, 41% of Americans now characterize North Korea an immediate threat to the United States, an all-time high for that measure.
Graham called on “God’s wisdom” to help solve the decades-old conflict.
“For 60 years, we've had our armies there on the border and nothing has changed,” Graham said. “We need to find a way forward that would somehow bring peace to the peninsula. The North wants that, I believe, and the South wants that very much. But how we get there, we just need God to give wisdom.”
Graham is the son of Bill Graham, the famed evangelist with many political ties who has met with every president since Harry Truman.
On top of humanitarian work, Graham’s foundation has also worked to keep tabs on Christians in North Korea.
“We have tried to maintain a dialog, at least with the churches and the Christians in the country, because we want them to know that America isn't their enemy, we are their friend and we want peace,” Graham said in the interview. “But more importantly, this is an atheist country. I want them to know there is a God who loves them and cares for them, who sent a savior whose name is Jesus Christ, who came to Earth to die for their sins and we can be forgiven.”’
Over 70% of North Koreans are unaffiliated, according to a 2012 study on world religions by the Pew Form on Religion and Public Life. Christians make up 2% of the population, behind Folk Religions and Other Religions, according to the study.
To Graham, though, the same love that he hopes to extend to North Koreans also extends to the country’s leaders.
“We want the leadership in the North to know that God does love them,” Graham said. “And they need His help at this time, just like we need His help.”
This is not the first time Graham has suggested prayer for the president.
After the 2012 election, in which Graham endorsed Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the evangelist asked congregations to pray for President Barack Obama.
“Having just come through a divisive national election, I am urging pastors across this country to lead their congregations in praying daily for our president, Barack Obama,” Graham said. “While politics is noticeably partisan, prayer must never be partisan. Americans need to come together, and people of faith should lead the way, by praying diligently for our leaders whether or not they agree with them or their policies.”
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.