China’s Uighurs Face Growing Oppression

For decades, China’s far western Xinjiang region has been a troubled place. The area is the homeland of the Uighurs, an ethnic group of Sunni Muslims who have more in common with Central Asia than with China’s majority Han group.

Discontent against Chinese rule simmers among many in Xinjiang, leading to frequent outbreaks of ethnic violence, and China’s attempts to quash the violence have led some Uighurs to complain of a broader clampdown on their culture and religion.

Living standards in Xinjiang have risen since the region was taken over by China in 1949. The government has invested heavily to exploit the region’s natural resources, but many Uighurs say they have seen little of that wealth.

Discontent against Chinese rule simmers among many in Xinjiang, leading to frequent outbreaks of ethnic violence, and in one recent incident in July, nearly 100 people were killed in Yarkand County by Uighur separatists armed with knives.

In an effort to discourage extremism and integrate ethnic Uighurs living in Xinjiang Province, the Chinese government has imposed wide-ranging restrictions on Uighurs’ religious and cultural expression. Uighur civil servants, women and those under the age of 18 are forbidden from attending mosques, and studying the Quran in Xinjiang Province is only allowed in designated government schools, whilst private religious education – even by one’s parents – is forbidden.

Despite the presence of many Han Christians in Xinjiang, few have a vision to reach the Uighurs.  One church elder, when asked about evangelizing Uighurs, “responded by shouting, ‘You’re crazy!'”

Today about 50 known Uighur Christians meet in two small fellowships in China, although 400 Uighur believers have recently emerged in neighbouring Kazakstan. Recent reports indicate that many Uighur in China may be on the verge of accepting Christ.

  • Pray for the Uighurs, for a peaceful resolution to the growing tensions in Xinjiang.
  • Pray for the Uighurs to have an openness to the gospel, that many will come to know Christ and, his love and grace.
  • Pray for the Han Chinese Christians to develop a burden to reach out to the Uighars in their communities, and to see them through God’s eyes of compassion and love.
  • Pray for a softening on the part of the Chinese Authorities to allow the Uighars to express their ethnic identity and to cease the oppression and restrictions which only lead to more resentment.

Psalm 86 vs 9: “All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.”


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