June 20, 2023
London (International Christian Concern) — A group of Christian Uyghurs in Europe has inaugurated a new organization – World Uyghur Christian Union (WUCU) – in London to raise awareness for both the historical early Christians in Xinjiang province and their ongoing persecution by the Chinese government. The group also intends to provide practical assistance for Christian Uyghurs seeking asylum in the United Kingdom.
The pre-Islamic presence of Christians in Xinjiang was outlined at a recent conference marking WUCU’s public inauguration at St. Matthew’s, Westminster, titled, “The Uyghur Quest for the Gospel.”
Academics and researchers presented the historical and archaeological case for the presence of Christians in former Turkestance since 635 AD. Indeed, the church grew substantially in the 9th Century with the arrival of Persian believers from the East Syriac Church – their presence certified in 1905 by the discovery of a huge library at Bulayiq by eccentric Prussian brewing magnate and Central Asian archaeologist, Albert von le Coq.
By the 12th and 14th Centuries, the entire Turkic Keirat tribe – a forerunner to the Uyghur community – was considered Christian until the forced conversions after the arrival of Islam in the 14th Century that marked centuries of Uyghur Christian persecution. Around the turn of the 20th Century, Swedish and inland Chinese missionaries established schools and surgeries, later disrupted by the Muslim Revolution in Xinjiang and jihadist attacks against Christians in the 1930s.
The CEO of WUCU, Dr. Enver Tohti – a Christian convert and former surgeon who exposed China’s organ harvesting industry – opened the Union last week alongside BBC journalist, David Campanale; British Freedom of Religion or Belief Deputy Special Envoy, David Burrowes; and Senior Researcher for the Victims of Communism Foundation, Ethan Gutmann, among others.
Christians constitute less than two percent of the Muslim Uyghur population, but the unwillingness of Western media to identify them has ensured that the persecution of this minority within a minority has become all but forgotten in the western consciousness. Indeed, the CCP frequently refers to the “terrorist populations” within Xinjiang as the precedent for further controls and surveillance – and forced enrollment on so-called “vocational training” or “re-education” programs in the infamous Xinjiang internment camps widely publicized in Western media in 2021.
But the status of Christians themselves within the Uyghur community is contentious. In 2017 and 2018, Dr. Tohti, a former Uber driver in London, was excluded from World Uyghur Congress youth training seminars in Sweden, and a conference on “Religious Freedom and Cultural Values Under Siege” in Washington, D.C. the following year.
This was followed by the establishment of the nonprofit, “Uyghur Christian Society” in London – now folded after its UK bank account was inexplicably frozen – but which has given way to the creation of WUCU. Founder of the Conservative Christian Fellowship – an organization within the British Conservative Party by and for Christian Conservative politicians – David Burrowes affirmed that ‘[there is a] double persecution of being Uyghur and Christian [which] is why we are gathered here today.’ Of the group’s inception, Campanale reminded the audience that ‘it’s from the lowliest and the smallest tin number that God uses the weak to shame the wise.’