Uyghur Refugees From China Share Their Stories
by Becca Pugh
Just over a week ago I enjoyed a delicious Uyghur meal with friends who are refugees to the U.S. from China. We came together to learn, to celebrate culture, and to discover what connects us all as human beings. These particular friends have experienced unimaginable difficulties in their lives so far, and they’re all only around their mid-late twenties.
One of our Uyghur friends was taken off the street by Chinese police in the middle of the day, simply because of the way he looks. He was put into a "re-education center" and was not able to communicate with his parents at all. He was only 15 years old at the time. They kept him for 40 days before he was able to reunite with his parents at a local police station. They used physical methods of torture and abuse in order to coerce him to comply with their programming. Thankfully, he and his family were eventually able to flee to Turkey. He was then able to come to the U.S. as a student, though his family is still in Turkey. Uyghurs fear that Turkey is no longer a safe place since the government has signed onto a trade deal with China, and the Chinese government is enlisting Turkish authorities to expose and deport Uyghur refugees. You can learn more about what is happening to Uyghurs in China from this BBC article.
What strikes me about this tragic reality is that most Americans are not aware of it, or do not have enough information to know how they can help. When I asked our Uyghur friends what we can do to help, they said the most important thing is raising awareness and letting people know what’s happening. They also connected us with a non-profit called Save Uighur, which provides extensive information on the issue.
At Peace Catalyst we believe that religious freedom is a universal human right. Take a few minutes today to learn about this issue and what you can do to make a difference. 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.
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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.