Life for Muslims in the province of Xinjiang in Northwest China has changed drastically over the past four years, and the transformation has been heartrending. To hear about the persecution is agonizing, but to be living in the middle of the suffering is unimaginable. While international awareness has grown, the Uyghur [WEE-ger] people have seen little change or relief from oppression. They continue to live as captives, both physically and spiritually.
The Uyghur are a Muslim people group of Turkic background. Although scattered all over the world, at least 10 million Uyghur live in Xinjiang. Of these millions, most have never had an opportunity to hear the gospel. Because of their belief in Islam, they seek to do enough good works to outnumber their sin so that on judgment day they might have a chance of entering heaven.
Throughout history there have been fruitful seasons of Christian witness among the Uyghur in Xinjiang, but seasons of persecution and government restrictions have seemingly extinguished the small beginnings of a church among them.
Since 2017 at least 1 million Uyghur have been detained and held in reeducation centers, separated from family and suffering horrible atrocities. Their language and culture are slowly being erased as the Chinese government hopes to assimilate the Uyghur into Chinese culture. At times it seems that darkness has won. Hope seems lost.
The Uyghur long for freedom – freedom from constant surveillance, imprisonment and suffering. Freedom to speak their own heart language, to be at home and with family, to work the job of their choice. Freedom to practice their religion – even to simply speak the name of God or to pray. They long for a physical deliverance from very real suffering and captivity.
They also hunger for deeper freedom, though most of them don’t consciously understand their spiritual state before God. They need deliverance from seeking to earn their salvation through good works, from the hold of fear, from sin, from being separated eternally from the one and only, true, Creator God.
Most Uyghur don’t know that Jesus offers them spiritual freedom. Most have not heard that He wants to give them life. They wait in darkness.
We know that God sees the suffering of the Uyghur people. He knows each person being held against their will in a camp or prison. He sees every cruel act and every injustice. He sees the location of every Uyghur man, woman and child – even if their family cannot see them or does not know. He sees how very lost they are.
And God cares. He cares for the orphans, separated from their parents and being raised in dorms at schools. He cares about the Uyghurs’ fears that keep them awake at night. God is concerned about their mistreatment. Every tear that is shed is seen and stirs the heart of a caring Father who hates injustice and loves the precious people He created. He does not want them separated from Him eternally because of their sin.
God wants to deliver and save the Uyghur people, and He wants to give them eternal freedom.
Please pray that the current evil being done to the Uyghur would be stopped, and that they would be rescued from their oppression.
Pray for Uyghur everywhere to have an opportunity to hear about the Deliverer who was sent to the world and that the Spirit of God would cause them to believe the truth they hear.
Pray that hope would replace fear in the lives of the Uyghur, as we believe God’s Word is true: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Messengers to the 2021 SBC annual meeting passed a resolution concerning the Uyghur people and calling churches to pray for them. This article was written by a Christian worker among Central Asian peoples.)