by Bill Clark
At Peace Catalyst, our goal is to build peace between Christians and Muslims, and what better way to make peace while spreading the word about the Uyghur genocide in China than to do it in partnership with the American Chinese Church?
As critical as it is to spread the word about what’s happening to Uyghurs, hosting listening events has not always been easy, mainly because of the danger to the families of Uyghurs who speak out.
For the last year Dr. Erkin Siddik, a Uyghur and NASA scientist, has spoken at several church- and mosque-based events hosted by Peace Catalyst and local partners. In these events we’ve pushed back against the false narratives of fear and security. Chinese churches reflect the conservatism of many white Evangelical churches and unfortunately share some of the same Islamophobia, but their response to these events has been very encouraging.
Once churches say yes to hosting an event, we then set up a Uyghur speaker from their area. Before 2017 this was challenging. We kept the events small and only advertised by word of mouth or through emails because some of our Uyghur friends were fearful of speaking out because of potential repercussions to family members back home.
WHAT DO LISTENING EVENTS LOOK LIKE?
First of all, we always have a meal together. Either the Uyghur community brings food or the Chinese Americans cater the meal from local restaurants. People sit around tables with a few starter questions to get conversations going, and then the main program begins.
Before 2017 the events focused on the life narratives of the speakers. They talked on what it was like growing up in Turpan, Urumqi, Kashgar, or Ili. Issues of racism and discrimination naturally surfaced as part of the descriptions of normal life, but there were also vignettes of kindness between these Uyghurs and Han Chinese neighbors and friends.
After the concentration camps and mass incarceration of ordinary citizens became more widely known in the spring of 2017, there has been a growing shift among some expatriate Uyghurs to become active in spreading the news of the slow-moving genocide in Xinjiang (see links below). Many of their family members are already in prison. There has even emerged an informal speakers’ bureau around the U.S. The ground-breaking research of Adrian Zenz and Shawn Zhang has been crucial in substantiating details about the concentration camps themselves. These details, along with the precious few interviews with survivors of the camps, have formed the backbone of the investigative journalism of the past two years.
At one of our events in San Diego, the L.A. Uyghur community flew in Mihri-gul, a Uyghur mother of two and survivor of the camps, to add a first-person voice to the program (watch her full testimony before Congress). I now can’t keep up with the Uyghur community’s demand to speak in public forums to let the world know what’s happening to their people, their own mothers and fathers, brothers, and sisters.
Like the general public, most Chinese American Christians are terribly uninformed about the Uyghur genocide. Part of the price of admission to these listening events is exposure to good journalism that helps them prepare for meeting their Uyghur American neighbors. A frequent response is, “We never knew it was this bad” and “What can we do?” Now we have the resources to inform and educate.
As part of the peacemaking community, how can you help? Do your own reading and research to get informed about what’s happening, and spread the word in your own circles. You can also attend one of our Listening Events or contact us about hosting one in your area.
Help us put on more events like this. We’re a crowndfunded peacemaking movement made possible by the generous partnership of people like you. Give now to support this work and make more listening events possible.
Contact your Congressional representatives. There are two bills in the U.S. Congress to address human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims in China, Senate Bill (S. 178) and House Bill (H.R. 649). Find your representatives here and ask them to support this legislation.