By / Oct 21

Over ​​the past few weeks there have been a number of international incidents that are worthy of our attention and prayer. Here are three you should know about from Iran, Ethiopia, and China.

What’s going on in Iran?

Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran has had a law requiring all women—regardless of nationality or religious belief—to wear hijabs that cover the head and neck while concealing the hair. The Gashte Ershad (guidance patrols) are the “morality police” tasked with enforcing this and other dress codes, as well as modest behavior. The patrols are usually composed of men and stationed in vans in public areas. The patrols generally target women, who are taken to a ​​police station, correctional facility, or re-education center, where they are taught to dress “appropriately.” 

Earlier this month, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested by a patrol in the capital city of Tehran and allegedly beaten while inside a morality police van. She was taken to the hospital where she remained in a coma before dying three days later. 

Amini’s death sparked outrage and protest throughout the country. Women in the country have posted videos of themselves setting fire to their headscarves and cutting their hair in public to chants of “Woman, life, freedom” and “Death to the dictator”—a reference to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

School children are protesting their leaders on an unprecedented scale that may prove difficult to contain, notes CNN. In attempting to put down the protest, an estimated 201 people—including 23 children—have been killed by Iranian authorities. The United Nation’s children agency UNICEF has also called for the protection of children and adolescents amid Iran’s protests. 

How to pray for this situation: Pray that God will protect the children and women of Iran, that the people will obtain freedom and protection for basic human rights, and that the church in Iran will be free from persecution. 

What’s going on in Ethiopia 

For the past year, the Ethiopian government and a regional military group have been engaged in a struggle for power and control over Tigray, the northern region of Ethiopia. Global leaders have so far hesitated to call it a genocide, referring to it as a civil war, or the Tigray War. But the atrocities committed by the Ethiopian and Eritrian governments make it clear the conflict is turning into a genocide. 

United Nations-backed investigators say all sides, including the Tigray forces, have committed abuses, but that the Ethiopian government is using “starvation of civilians” as a weapon of war. Tigray has been under a blockade for 17 months, and an estimated one million people are at risk of starvation. Because they are cut off from medical care, women are also dying during pregnancy or within 42 days of giving birth at five times the rate before the war. Children under 5 are dying at twice the pre-war rate, often because of easily preventable reasons. 

Altogether, an estimated half a million people have already died in the conflict. Tigray is “one of the worst manmade humanitarian crises in the world,” says the European Union foreign policy chief.

How to pray for this situation: Pray that the upcoming peace talks will bring an end to the conflict, that the genocide will end, and that the people of Ethiopia will find healing and restoration.

What’s going on in China? 

The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party began this week in Beijing. The 2,296 delegates will represent the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s 96.7 million members in reelecting the current leader, Xi Jinping.  

The 69-year-old Xi was due to step down in 2023, but in 2018 he further consolidated power by having his party change the constitution to remove the limitation that no Chinese president shall serve more than two consecutive terms.

Xi Jinping was elected as the president of the People’s Republic of China in 2013. In addition to this role as president, Xi also serves as the general secretary of the Communist Party of China (putting him in control of the country’s political party) and chairman of the Central Military Commission (which makes him the commander-in-chief of China’s military forces). He also is head of so many other smaller decision-making bodies that he’s been called the “Chairman of Everything.”

After his first four years in office, the Communist Party voted unanimously to incorporate “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era” into the Chinese constitution, an honor previously reserved for Mao Zedong and his successor, Deng Xiaoping. This change enshrined Xi’s political philosophy into the country’s supreme law and made any challenge to him a direct threat to Communist Party rule. As the BBC has noted, schoolchildren, college students, and staff at state factories are required to study this political ideology.

The reelection of Xi means the continuation of human rights abuse that have been the hallmark of his presidency. Under his rule, more than a million Uyghurs, a majority Muslim ethnic group living in Central and East Asia, have been detained in a network of concentration camps. The atrocities against them include forced abortions, rape, sexual abuse, sterilization, internment in concentration camps, organ harvesting, human trafficking, scientific experimentation, the sale of human hair forcibly taken from those in concentration camps, family separation, forced reeducation of children, forced labor, and torture.

In 2021, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted the “Resolution 8: On The Uyghur Genocide,” becoming the first major denomination or convention of churches to speak up on behalf of Uyghurs and use the label “genocide” for Xi’s crimes against humanity. 

How to pray for this situation: ​​Pray for the Uyghurs, that they will find earthly protection and an end to the persecution, and that they will obtain ultimate salvation by putting their faith in Christ. 

By / Apr 15

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss President Biden saying Putin is committing genocide in Ukraine, the Brooklyn subway shooting, and a Christian who escaped from a reeducation camp in Xinjiang. They also talk about several resources to prepare our hearts for Good Friday and Easter. 

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  1. Biden says Putin is committing genocide in Ukraine
  2. Frank James, suspect in Brooklyn subway shooting, discussed violence in YouTube clips
  3. Christian Detainee Who Escaped Xinjiang Camp | SBC resolution

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  • Dobbs Resource Page Prayer Guide | Right now, the Supreme Court is considering a major Mississippi abortion case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The ERLC and other pro-life organizations filed an amicus brief in this case urging the Supreme Court to overturn the disatrous Roe v. Wade decision. Members of our team also joined pro-life advocates on the steps of the Supreme Court when oral arguments were heard last December. As we approach the Supreme Court’s final decision in June of this year, it’s important for Christians to pray for this landmark case and begin preparing our churches to serve vulnerable women and children in a potential post-Roe world. Download our free prayer guide at ERLC.com/Dobbs.
  • Dobbs Resource Page | Many Christians are aware that an important case about abortion is being decided at the Supreme Court this June. But for many, this case is confusing and wrapped in a lot of legal jargon. The ERLC wants to help with that, so we’ve created a resource page that will help you and your church understand what this case means, what could happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and how your church can prepare to serve vulnerable women and children in the aftermath. To learn more about the Dobbs case and how you can pray, visit ERLC.com/Dobbs.
By / Mar 25

For the last month, the attention of the world has rightly been focused on ​​the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia. But the deadliest war on the planet is currently happening in Ethiopia. Global leaders have so far hesitated to call it a genocide, referring to it as a civil war, or the Tigray War. But the atrocities committed by the Ethiopian and Eritrian governments make it clear the conflict is turning into a genocide. 

According to researchers at Ghent University in Belgium, as many as 500,000 people have died from war and famine in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia over the past 16 months. The estimate includes 50,000 to 100,000 victims of direct killings, 150,000 to 200,000 starvation deaths, and more than 100,000 additional deaths caused by a lack of health care. 

The United Nations has also said more than 500 rapes in Tigray have been reported to healthcare workers. Some Tigrayan victims of rape by Ethiopian forces and their allies recalled the rapists using phrases like “Tigrayans have no history,” “Tigrayans are beasts,” and that “we are raping you to cleanse your Tigrayan bloodline.” One Tigrayan woman described how Eritrean soldiers ordered her father to rape her, then shot and killed him when he refused. The soldiers raped her instead.

Some Eritrean prisoners of war have confirmed that they were ordered to kill all Tigrayans above the age of 10 and also to prevent people from burying victims. Teenagers were reportedly killed while family members of murdered victims were prevented from burying their loved ones.

The conflict’s history 

The conflict began 16 months ago in Tigray. This region is located in the northernmost part of Ethiopia, and is the fifth-most populous of the country’s 11 regional states. In November 2020, fighting broke out when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a left-wing ethnic nationalist, attacked the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) Northern Command headquarters in the city of Mekelle. The Ethiopian national government responded by declaring a state of emergency in the region and launching a military assault to retake several areas controlled by TPLF. 

A week later more than 600 civilians were massacred with knives and machetes by local militias, while the government continued air strikes in the region using Chinese-made drones. Michelle Bachelet, head of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, says her staff have recorded hundreds of deaths from aerial attacks “apparently carried out by the Ethiopian Air Force.” Soon after the massacre, the military of Eritrea began occupying parts of Tigray to help impose a curfew in which hundreds were killed. 

Criticism of the conduct of government troops and their allies from neighboring Eritrea grew after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken asserted that “ethnic cleansing” had taken place in Tigray. What began as a political dispute, soon developed into a campaign of genocide against minority Tigrayans. “The challenge in Ethiopia is very significant, and it’s one that we are very focused on, particularly the situation in Tigray, where we are seeing very credible reports of human rights abuses and atrocities that are ongoing,” Blinken told the foreign affairs committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Effects from the war in Ukraine

The Ethiopian government appears to be using the fact that the world’s attention has been diverted to engage in stronger genocidal measures. For example, government forces are preventing food aid and medicine from reaching Tigray, according to humanitarian groups. As Mehari Taddele Maru observes, “With 5.2 million out of 6 million people in desperate need of food aid, nearly 83 percent are food insecure, 40 percent are facing extreme lack of food and 900,000 live in a ‘famine-like’ situation. The death toll from this famine, used as a weapon of war, could exceed thousands.” 

While the war on Ukraine deserves our continued attention, we must not forget about the other countries where horrific acts of violence are occurring. “We are seeing clear evidence of [the war in Ukraine] draining resources and attention from other trouble spots in desperate need,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently told journalists.

Christians should continue to pray for peace in Ethiopia, for the protection of its citizens, for an end to government corruption, and for the Lord to provide food for the millions who are starving. We should also pray that fellow believers in Ethiopia and around the world would be allowed to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of these oppressed people with the hope of Christ. 

By / Feb 4

Editor’s Note: On Jan. 20, 2022, the ERLC sent a letter to the CEO of NBC Universal, Jeff Shell, calling for accurate coverage during the Beijing Olympics of the Chinese Communist Party’s gross and ongoing human rights violations, particularly the genocide of the Uyghur people. In light of the opening ceremonies and coverage that has already been problematic, we urge NBC and other media outlets to tell the truth about the CCP and to help inform the wider public of these ongoing travesties. The CCP cannot be allowed to use the world stage to showcase a false version of itself and to cover up a genocide.

Dear Mr. Shell,

As you are no doubt aware, there is an ongoing genocide taking place in China. Countless stories have been written about the plight of the Uyghur people who are being brutally oppressed by the Chinese government. Unfortunately, as we have seen most recently with the callous comments from Mr. Chamath Palihapitiya, too many Americans are either unaware of the severity of the situation or indifferent about the treatment of a religious minority across the globe. I am writing to you today because I believe you have a unique opportunity to provide real-time information that could help reveal the truth to millions of people across the globe.

To do that, I would respectfully appeal that NBC use its unique position as a broadcaster of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to highlight the ongoing human rights abuses and genocide of the Uyghur people happening in China and firmly refuse to broadcast Chinese propaganda.

Since 2017, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has waged a systematic war of persecution against the Uyghur people, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic group in Xinjiang. Uyghurs are subjected to totalitarian tactics that include pervasive surveillance, forced detainment and placement into internment camps for “political reeducation,” forced labor, forced birth control, sterilization or abortion, rape, physical and psychological torture, and forced organ harvesting. Estimates vary, but experts believe that China has detained between one million and three million Uyghur people in these facilities.

These actions have been labeled as an ongoing genocide by both the Trump and Biden administrations, respectively. In June 2021, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 14.5 million members and a network of over 50,000 cooperating churches and congregations, unanimously passed a resolution rightly calling what’s happening to the Uyghurs a genocide. The SBC was the first denomination to pass such a resolution.

We should all be clear-eyed about this global event. The Chinese government would love nothing more than to use these Winter Games as an opportunity to hide these human rights abuses and lie to the world about the treatment of the Uyghurs. The Chinese Communist Party cannot be allowed to use the world stage to showcase a false version of itself and to cover up a genocide.

NBC has a unique opportunity and responsibility to correctly reframe what viewers are seeing and provide context to the ongoing abuses in China that are happening outside of the Games. Because NBC has its own cameras and crew, you alone are able to showcase protests that might be happening, cut away from Chinese propaganda that is being shown, and provide com- mentary that contextualizes and accurately reports on what viewers are seeing. In the moments that cannot be appropriately shown to viewers, NBC should broadcast documented reports of China’s abuses.

This will be especially important in the opening and closing ceremonies, where China will likely attempt to portray itself as a hospitable nation to all and inappropriately highlight the cultures of ethnic and religious minorities. It is in these moments that NBC must be prepared with the truth and be ready to make a bold stand for human rights.

Mr. Shell, you understand the importance of this global event. Millions of viewers will be tuned in to see world-class athletes compete against one another with the hope of earning a medal for their country. But, in the backdrop of these Games, is an ongoing atrocity the host government would rather be ignored. Resist those efforts. NBC should be on the side of truth and not allow itself to become the international propaganda arm of the Chinese Communist Party.

Respectfully,

Brent Leatherwood
Acting President
Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission               

Further resources:

By / Jan 10

On July 15, 2020, Griffin Gulledge, the pastor of Madison Baptist Church in Madison, Georgia, had a tweet go viral. He posted a video on Twitter showing Uyghurs, a minority people group in China, kneeling in rows after being escorted off of trains. All of their heads were shaved. And all of them were headed to forced labor camps. Gulledge then went on to tweet, “China is committing one of the grossest acts of human rights violations in modern history, and we aren’t saying a word because it financially benefits most of the rest of the world.” In addition, he shared reports from various news outlets. 

Many of those who follow Gulledge were made aware of this atrocity for the first time, and it has become an advocacy priority for the Southern Baptist Convention, emphasizing the God-given dignity of every individual and the importance of religious liberty. Gulledge answers questions below about his actions on behalf of the Uyghurs and his advice to the local church. 

Elizabeth Bristow: You were recently awarded the ERLC’s John Leland Religious Liberty Award for drafting a resolution for the Southern Baptist Convention that advocated on behalf of Uyghur people, a predominantly Muslim and Turkic-speaking ethnic group who are the targets of a genocidal campaign by the Chinese government. What led you to act on behalf of this vulnerable and oppressed people group?

Griffin Gulledge: Ultimately, what led me to act on their behalf is two things: the Word of God and awareness. It’s an old trope that every pastor should preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. Well, perhaps the application goes deeper than just preaching, but also extends to how we live our lives.

I was taught from Scripture that every person is created in the image of God and endowed with a fundamental dignity by their Creator. As I began to read in The New York Times, among other outlets, about the plight of the Uyghurs, it became abundantly clear I could not be silent. When you read about the systematic imprisonment, surveillance, reeducation, family separation, rape, organ and hair harvesting, and various other abuses of this people by the Chinese government, you cannot remain silent. I could not remain silent. So I decided to use whatever platform or voice I had to speak and tell others as I had been told.

EB: The resolution you drafted, “Resolution 8: On The Uyghur Genocide,”was resoundingly adopted by the messengers at the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. Why is this significant, and what implications does it have for the future of the SBC?

GG: It’s significant for several reasons. First, it’s significant because it makes the SBC the first major denomination, or in our case convention of churches, to speak up on behalf of Uyghurs and call this genocide. 

Second, it reminds our people that we have an obligation to speak up in the face of abuse and oppression. The Uyghurs are not the only people group facing such horrors, but if we can see it clearly with them, perhaps we can see it clearly in our own midst. 

Third, it gives us a track record for speaking up on genocide. This is not the first time, and will not be the last, the SBC has spoken up on issues of human dignity. Moral credibility and a consistent public witness requires us to speak up, and here we have. We have a clear precedent to not be silent in the face of grave injustice. 

A final implication is this: Southern Baptists are unified around the things that matter most. Our mission. Our gospel. Our Bible. Loving our neighbors. Some people came to Nashville to fight one another, and ended up locking arms and fighting for those far more in need of our effort, energy, and prayers. I hope we will be marked by this in days ahead.

EB: Your resolution made the Southern Baptist Convention the first denomination to condemn the CCP for the genocide of the Uyghur people. Why is this significant?

GG: It’s never a bad thing to be the first to do what is right. Moral action should never be dependent on a finger to the wind or the ‘mood of the room’. More than that, what we have done as the largest denomination by speaking up first is create what I call a permission structure. Now we have created a pathway for others to join us, others to speak up, others to engage. The IMB and Send Relief can target this people group with love and care. Other parachurch agencies can justify allocating money and resources to them because Southern Baptists Care. And on and on that goes. I hope we are the first domino.

EB: You mentioned in a Baptist Press interview that you didn’t do anything special to gain this religious liberty award, but did what any Baptist can do. When it comes to issues of global persecution and human rights crises like what we’re witnessing in China, what can people in the local church do to make a difference? 

GG: When I say I didn’t do anything special, I don’t mean that what I have done or said is unimportant. What I mean is that speaking up loudly in the face of moral atrocities should be standard for Southern Baptists. I hope this resolution is a starting line for our advocacy, not a finish line.

Call your senators and representatives. Call for preferred refugee status for Uyghurs. It takes no time at all. Commend them when they do it, no matter if you voted for them or not. 

Speak up. Be a voice for awareness. Read about their plight. Share it online and with your friends and loved ones. Caring consistently well set us apart from the slacktivism of “one post on twitter, then back to my real cares” that marks our day and age.

Pray for Uyghurs. Pray for their salvation, and pray for their protection.

Finally, do your homework. Are there Uyghurs near you? Are there refugees you can help? Can you collect goods? Can you volunteer? I heard of churches in California doing ministry to Uyghurs just the other day. We can help, but we can’t do it with our head in the stand. Speak up. Look up. Stand up. Mobilize for the good of your neighbor and the spread of the gospel.

EB: Why should Christians care about religious liberty and global religious persecution? Is it wrong to care that Muslims be protected? 

GG: Religious freedom is the open door for global evangelization. If you want the gospel to advance, you cannot support silencing other religions via tyranny. Their freedom to practice their religion gives us the freedom to persuade them that Christ is better in every way: more worthy of their love and affection, devotion and worship. We don’t influence by the sword, but through the sword of the Spirit: the Word of God. Religious freedom is a necessity to engage in that kind of ministry.

EB: How would you encourage a pastor to help stir up the hearts of his flock to care for the vulnerable? 

GG: Preach Christ. You were far off. You were lost. You were weak. Ezekiel 16:6 says, “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’”

That’s us. That’s all of us, spiritually. And it is some of us, physically. When we understand and believe the gospel, indifference to suffering is driven out. Preach Christ, show how he loves the needy, and call people to respond.

EB: How can Christians learn more about these issues, and how can we pray? 

GG: There are countless great resources online from the ERLC, the national media, and more. Uyghur news is available if you will only seek it. There is a huge amount of publicly available information. It starts with you. Seek it out. Read for yourself. 

Pray for Uyghurs who are Christians — that as they suffer, they will have a powerful witness among Uyghurs who are lost. Pray for God to protect the Uyghurs and end their suffering. Pray for Uyghur children whose lives are being torn apart. Pray for Communist China to lose its power over them. Pray for God to convert the tormenters. Pray for Uyghurs to know Christ and pray for missionaries who take the gospel to them. Above all, don’t just pray once. Pray, pray, and pray again for the Uyghurs.

By / Jan 3

For the past four years, the world has watched one alarming report of Uyghur genocide after another trickle out from Xinjiang, China’s westernmost territory. On Oct. 5, 2021, however, a former Chinese prison guard shared particularly horrifying accounts of the torture Uyghurs endure in Xinjiang “reeducation” camps: 

“Kick them, beat them (until they’re) bruised and swollen. Until they kneel on the floor crying . . . Everyone uses different methods. Some even use a wrecking bar, or iron chains with locks . . . Police would step on the suspect’s face and tell him to confess.”

These revelations, reported by CNN, also included accounts of extreme torture, including sexual abuse and even gang rapes.1https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/04/china/xinjiang-detective-torture-intl-hnk-dst/index.html They are, sadly, part of a broader plan.

Since 2017, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has waged a systemic campaign of oppression and persecution against the Uyghur people, a predominantly Muslim and Turkic-speaking ethnic group. The geographic scope of the CCP’s campaign against Uyghurs is global, but primarily restricted to Xinjiang, where Uyghurs have lived for centuries. Under the guise of national security, the CCP is seeking to “pacify” the region with totalitarian tactics like pervasive surveillance, thought control, ideological reeducation, and forced birth control. 

The CCP’s oppression of the Uyghur people does not stop there. Beginning in 2018, reports began to emerge chronicling how China is exploiting this group vocationally. China is the world’s largest producer of cotton and solar panels, and the vast majority of these exports come from Xinjiang. For many Uyghurs, the reeducation camps are a launching pad to compulsory labor in these industries. Whether in Xinjiang or throughout China, the CCP is relocating Uyghurs and exploiting them for free or underpaid labor.

Formal determination of genocide against Uyghurs

In response, the Department of State labeled these atrocities as a genocide on Jan. 19, 2021—the final day of the Trump administration.2https://2017-2021.state.gov/determination-of-the-secretary-of-state-on-atrocities-in-xinjiang/index.html President Joe Biden has upheld this finding.3https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-usa-xinjiang/u-s-says-no-change-in-its-genocide-determination-for-chinas-xinjiang-idUSKBN2B12LG The label carries significant weight, beyond the bipartisan agreement surrounding it. The United States is a signatory of the Genocide Convention of 1948, which obligates member states to “prevent and punish” genocide anywhere it occurs.4https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide-convention.shtml Issuing a formal genocide finding is the first step in this process.

Deeper than America’s legal obligations, though, is the moral imperative. Words matter, especially in politics. Genocide, according to the 1948 Convention, is specific action taken “with intent to destroy” an ethnic or religious people group.5https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide-convention.shtml Confronting evil of this magnitude begins with naming it accurately. The United States has taken this first step.

It is, however, just that: a first step. For America to meet its legal and moral obligations in the face of an ongoing genocide, tough diplomacy is necessary, but wholly insufficient apart from a broader effort. Indeed, subsequent atrocity determinations from parliaments in Canada,6https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56163220 Britain,7https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-56843368 the Netherlands,8https://www.reuters.com/article/us-netherlands-china-uighurs/dutch-parliament-chinas-treatment-of-uighurs-is-genocide-idUSKBN2AP2CI and Lithuania9https://www.reuters.com/world/china/lithuanian-parliament-latest-call-chinas-treatment-uyghurs-genocide-2021-05-20/ have raised global awareness, but they have failed to stop the CCP’s oppression of Uyghurs. Chinese government officials blatantly deny all accusations of political persecution in Xinjiang and show no sign of easing up.10https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-rights/china-rejects-genocide-charge-in-xinjiang-says-door-open-to-u-n-idUSKBN2AM1UX

Over the past four months, subsequent events suggest the president is unwilling to meet these atrocities with more than words. 

The Biden administration’s conflicted response to the Uyghur genocide

At the outset of Biden’s presidency, the president cast his vision for America’s China policy: “We’ll confront China’s economic abuses; counter its aggressive, coercive action; to push back on China’s attack on human rights, intellectual property, and global governance. But we are ready to work with Beijing when it’s in America’s interest to do so.”11https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/02/04/remarks-by-president-biden-on-americas-place-in-the-world/

The reference to cooperation was code for, among other things, climate change. Biden had indicated early on that climate change was his most important policy priority.12https://www.whitehouse.gov/priorities/ Given Beijing’s emissions levels, a global climate policy wouldn’t be truly global without China’s involvement and buy-in. Thus, the president announced his intent to bifurcate America’s competitive and cooperative agendas with China to ensure progress on both tracks simultaneously.

The CCP’s response was blunt, and has remained consistent: Beijing will not allow Washington to have its cake and eat it too. The price of progress on climate policy is America respecting China’s “internal issues,” such as its policies in Xinjiang, by remaining silent.

This tension came to a head last summer. Because of China’s significant cotton and solar panel exports, companies that operate in Xinjiang or purchase these goods from China run the risk of financially supporting the oppression of the Uyghur people. U.S. laws prohibit the importation of any goods tied to compulsory labor.13https://www.cbp.gov/trade/programs-administration/forced-labor In response, the White House debated in June whether to deem all exports from Xinjiang as having been made by slave labor.14https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/06/24/fact-sheet-new-u-s-government-actions-on-forced-labor-in-xinjiang/ According to reporting from Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, the climate faction fought and won a debate within the administration to only designate one company.15https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/06/24/china-solar-panels-biden-ban-uyghurs-human-rights/ Washington pulled its punches.

Since then, subsequent reporting from mainstream sources like the Associated Press have revealed that John Kerry, former secretary of state and Biden’s climate czar, has grown increasingly influential within the administration—and has used that influence to sideline officials advocating for a stronger response to China’s genocide.16https://apnews.com/article/business-religion-china-environment-and-nature-united-states-92243b29f1161b4cd4eb30fd8aa84b35

When asked about the trade-off between climate policy and human rights, specifically the Uyghurs, Kerry responded: “Life is always full of tough choices.”17https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/john-kerry-says-we-have-tough-choices-between-climate-change-and-genocide

In December, Congress unanimously passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and sent the bill to President Biden for his signature. On Dec. 23, the president signed the bill into law.18https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/12/23/bill-signed-h-r-6256/ This is certainly good news, and we ought to be grateful for this important action.

How should Christians respond to the Uyghur genocide?

For Christians, underneath issues like human rights and the environment are foundational concepts like human dignity and caring for creation. These frameworks come from Scripture’s opening pages and form the basis of much of Christian political thinking. Given the brokenness of our world as a result of the fall, however, these callings will conflict at key moments. The Uyghur genocide is such a moment. 

Right now, millions of Uyghurs are forcibly detained in internment camps, subjected to forced labor and draconian birth control. Countering the CCP must be a top priority of this administration and our allies. President Biden must respond with bold leadership and swift action. One of the roles of governments is to protect its citizens and allow them to live and worship freely. When governments fail to do this, the proper response is to counter them with strong moral leadership. 

Scripture tells us that every human is created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). The imago Dei should reorient our priorities and train our hearts to care about people, above all else. As Christians, we ought to care well for the world in which we’ve been entrusted. That means that we should advocate for policies that care for the environment, but we should do so with the understanding that our care for people must always be our top priority.

Conclusion

We might feel helpless to counter the Chinese Communist Party as they are perpetrating a genocide against the Uyghurs, but each one of us can use our voice to speak up on behalf of those who can’t speak up for themselves. You can share articles on the persecution of Uyghurs on social media. You can invite a Uyghur to share their story through Zoom to your community. You can urge the U.S. government to continue taking strong measures to address these injustices.19https://erlc.com/resource-library/issue-briefs/erlc-supports-uyghur-forced-labor-prevention-act/

And we ought to pray often for persecuted people around the world. Below are a few specific ways to pray.

  • Pray for the leaders of China, that they will end their oppression and persecution of their citizens, especially Uyghurs, Christians, Hong Kongers, the Falun Gong, and other ethnic and religious minorities. 
  • Pray for Christians in China, that they will be bold in proclaiming the good news of the gospel and that they will stand up for those who are being persecuted.
  • Pray for world leaders, that they will have the courage and wisdom to counter China morally and hold the CCP accountable for their gross violations of human rights.

Christians should be on the frontlines of advocating for the dignity, human rights, and religious freedom of all people. We cannot remain silent or complacent in the face of such injustices. Proverbs 31:8 instructs us to “open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.” When we advocate for the vulnerable and oppressed, we are fulfilling the commands of Scripture and modeling to the watching world the heart of Christ. 

  • 1
    https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/04/china/xinjiang-detective-torture-intl-hnk-dst/index.html
  • 2
    https://2017-2021.state.gov/determination-of-the-secretary-of-state-on-atrocities-in-xinjiang/index.html
  • 3
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-usa-xinjiang/u-s-says-no-change-in-its-genocide-determination-for-chinas-xinjiang-idUSKBN2B12LG
  • 4
    https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide-convention.shtml
  • 5
    https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide-convention.shtml
  • 6
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56163220
  • 7
    https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-56843368
  • 8
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-netherlands-china-uighurs/dutch-parliament-chinas-treatment-of-uighurs-is-genocide-idUSKBN2AP2CI
  • 9
    https://www.reuters.com/world/china/lithuanian-parliament-latest-call-chinas-treatment-uyghurs-genocide-2021-05-20/
  • 10
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-rights/china-rejects-genocide-charge-in-xinjiang-says-door-open-to-u-n-idUSKBN2AM1UX
  • 11
    https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/02/04/remarks-by-president-biden-on-americas-place-in-the-world/
  • 12
    https://www.whitehouse.gov/priorities/
  • 13
    https://www.cbp.gov/trade/programs-administration/forced-labor
  • 14
    https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/06/24/fact-sheet-new-u-s-government-actions-on-forced-labor-in-xinjiang/
  • 15
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/06/24/china-solar-panels-biden-ban-uyghurs-human-rights/
  • 16
    https://apnews.com/article/business-religion-china-environment-and-nature-united-states-92243b29f1161b4cd4eb30fd8aa84b35
  • 17
    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/john-kerry-says-we-have-tough-choices-between-climate-change-and-genocide
  • 18
    https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/12/23/bill-signed-h-r-6256/
  • 19
    https://erlc.com/resource-library/issue-briefs/erlc-supports-uyghur-forced-labor-prevention-act/
By / Dec 21

When most of us in the West think about technology, our minds often revert to our smartphones, social media, and computer technology. Many of the debates surrounding these technologies tend to focus on how these tools are altering our behaviors, reformulating how we think about the very nature of truth, or even how they are aiding a deep polarization in the throes of secularization. While there is growing consensus across partisan lines about the dangers of Big Tech, there is little agreement on the nature of the problem or what to do about it. But for all of the partisan rancor and tribalization we see today, there is thankfully one issue that is uniting various political factions today — the widespread abuse of these tools by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), specifically in their relentless pursuit of suppressing the basic human rights of millions Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China.

For many, these atrocities are just becoming more well known and mainstream news — especially with the recent passage of the Uyghur Forced Labor Act by the United States Congress, as well as the adoption of the unanimously passed resolution decrying these abuses as genocide by the Southern Baptist Convention this past June. While it may seem new, these abuses have been going on for years — often off the world’s radar — and have been fueled by a sophisticated network of surveillance and repressive technological controls designed to facilitate this ongoing genocide against the Uyghur population. 

As Christians we stand up against the abuses of power based on our foundational understanding of human dignity rooted in the imago Dei (Gen. 1:26-28) and the Christian ethic of neighbor love (Matt. 22:37-39). Right now, the church has the opportunity to speak up and advocate for the vulnerable and abused among us even if they live across the world under the heavy hand of a repressive regime like the CCP.

Tools of oppression against Uyghur Muslims

The reality of what is taking place among Uyghur Muslims in China is more gruesome and egregious than most have realized. This was made clear from video footage of Uyghur detainment that exposes rampant human rights violations of the worst kind. As my ERLC colleague Chelsea Patterson Sobolik has written:

Since 2017, the CCP has waged a systematic war of persecution against the Uyghur people, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic group in Xinjiang, China’s westernmost territory. Uyghurs are subjected to totalitarian tactics that include pervasive surveillance, forced detainment and placement into internment camps for “political reeducation,” forced labor, forced birth control, sterilization or abortion, rape, physical and psychological torture and forced organ harvesting.

These totalitarian tactics are waged against this people group based on their religious beliefs.They are subjected to propaganda-style reeducation that often includes renouncing deeply held beliefs and swearing ultimate allegiance to the Chinese state. But how exactly has the CCP been able to amass such power and control over these people without widespread knowledge and countermeasures?

The ability of this regime to mobilize its efforts to surveil and oppress Uyghurs has grown in large part due the massive advances of technology, namely widespread use of facial recognition technology, data surveillance, and the centralization of all communication technologies including the internet and social media. As I have previously written on the rise of digital authoritarianism, the CCP maintains almost complete access to personal and institutional data collected by Chinese technology companies or those who seek to access China’s lucrative markets. The Chinese government has also proudly and publicly promoted its use of facial recognition tools and social controls for the watching world. And these same tools are being marketed and used to profile, surveil, and round up Uyghurs all across the nation.

As Elizabeth C. Economy writes, the CCP has also built a robust and nearly impenetrable hold over public access to information. With “Chinanet,” the CCP has essentially created a walled garden, where any information that could challenge the heavy hand of the regime’s control is filtered out completely and inaccessible by Chinese citizens. For example, the ability to search for any type of pro-democracy media, or even information about the infamous Tiananmen Square massacre, has been stripped from the internet in China. The goal is to control the information flow and only expose citizens to highly-scripted propaganda that strengthens the CCP’s power and influence over its citizenry.

Economy further describes in her book, The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State, how the Chinese leadership has “directed significant time and energy in investing in technological upgrades to increase the state’s already potent capacity to monitor and prevent undesirable content from entering and circulating through the country.” They are effectively prevented from shifting the power imbalance or seeking to hold their leaders accountable for their denial of basic human rights, such as religious freedom.1A version of this section was previously published as Wired for Tyranny? in the September/October 2021 of Liberty Magazine. Used with permission. https://www.libertymagazine.org/article/wired-for-tyranny.

A Christian response to the CCP’s genocide against Uyghur Muslims

In light of these atrocities and blatant violations of basic human rights, what is the church to do? One of the main ways the church can engage on these important issues is by refusing to be silent and letting our elected officials know that the United States and other countries must not allow these violations of dignity and basic human rights to go unchallenged. From the outset of these events, the ERLC has been raising awareness and advocating against these egregious human rights violations and blatant religious freedom abuses. As early as 2019 when reports began to highlight the inhumane treatment of Uyghur Muslims, our team has relentlessly pushed for the United States and other nations around the world to counter China morally alongside efforts to counter them economically.

As mentioned above, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act last week, which now is due for President Biden to sign into law. This law will prevent goods being produced by forced labor from reaching our shores and highlight these human rights violations. This not only publicly signals our commitment to ending the atrocities, but also will put real economic pressure on China to change its practices. This is the first among many needed steps to condemn the CCP’s tyrannical grip over this people group. The CCP must not profit off the surveillance, detainment, and exploitation of the Uyghurs. 

Another aspect of advocacy is understanding the ways that technology has aided and facilitated much of this abuse. Without these powerful tools, the level of surveillance and control simply would not have been possible. This is another reason that the United States and other countries must not be complicit in aiding or supporting this regime through the devices we purchase, systems we employ, or even the messages that we send. While much of the work to be done to counter the CCP’s hold will be more expansive than simply speaking to the technologies at play, it must not be less than that. Technology is part of the social ecosystem that we all inhabit today and must not be seen as an ancillary issue but a core element of any effective foreign policy strategy. As Christians engage on these pressing issues in the public square, we must do so from a full-orbed vision of life in a digital society — committed to basic freedoms of expression, religious belief, and dignity for all.

  • 1
    A version of this section was previously published as Wired for Tyranny? in the September/October 2021 of Liberty Magazine. Used with permission. https://www.libertymagazine.org/article/wired-for-tyranny.
By / Mar 26

This week, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Canada announced multilateral sanctions against Chinese government officials for their manifold human rights violations against Uyghur muslims. The sanctions were imposed against two Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders uniquely responsible for these atrocities: Wang Junzheng, the secretary of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB) under the Global Magnitsky sanctions program.

“Wang Junzheng and Chen Mingguo are being designated pursuant to Executive Order 13818 in connection with the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) appalling abuses in Xinjiang,” read the announcement of sanctions from the U.S. Department of State. The statement continued, “Wang is being designated for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the XPCC. Chen is being designated for being a foreign person who is a leader or an official of the XPSB, which has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuse related to Chen’s tenure.”

This is a continuation of United States’ policy recognizing the atrocities against Uyghur muslims as a genocide. However, it is of special interest that this is the first time since the Tiananmen Square massacre the U.K. has imposed sanctions against the Chinese Communist Party. The CCP is waging a systematic campaign of persecution against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. The Chinese government has detained over a million Uyghur muslims in internment camps, subjected them to forced labor. Even now, the CCP continues to forcibly separate families and subject women to forced sterilization.

Sanctions are a tool governments can use to respond to foreign policy challenges. Many governments and multilateral bodies use economic sanctions to attempt to alter the behavior of another nation. 

The sanctions from the U.S. were applied under the Global Magnitsky sanctions program, which authorizes the executive branch to impose visa bans and block sanctions against any foreign person or entity “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals in any foreign country seeking to expose illegal activity carried out by government officials, or to obtain, exercise, or promote human rights and freedoms.” 

The E.U., the U.K., and Canada all have their own version of Global Magnitsky sanctions. These sanctions not only signal an international commitment to stand up for human rights, but also cause material harm and disincentive for China’s current actions. 

Additionally, the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand released a joint statement condemning China’s horrific acts of violence and showing solidarity with the international community in punishing those responsible. This partnership of countries is called the “Five Eyes,” and they serve together as an intelligence alliance. The joint statement reads, in part: “The evidence, including from the Chinese Government’s own documents, satellite imagery, and eyewitness testimony is overwhelming. China’s extensive program of repression includes severe restrictions on religious freedoms, the use of forced labour, mass detention in internment camps, forced sterilisations, and the concerted destruction of Uyghur heritage.”

The new sanctions and statements from Western government leaders are noteworthy steps in the right direction as they place needed pressure on the Chinese government for their persecution of Uyghurs. 

The U.S. should continue prioritizing religious freedom abroad. The ERLC will continue to advance human rights rooted in the image of God and religious freedom for persecuted people in China, and encourage our government officials to hold China accountable to recognize human dignity and the sanctity of human life.

To learn more see these ERLC resources

By / Feb 11

Jeff, Chelsea, and Travis discuss three big international stories for Christians to consider. They cover an update on the Chinese Uyghur genocide, how Christians are often left out of Middle East peace accords, and what we can learn about the fragility of democracy from the coup in Myanmar. 

This episode was sponsored by The Good Book Company, publisher of Being the Bad Guy by Stephen McAlpine.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Jan 22

In this episode, Josh, Brent, Julie, and Meagan discuss the inauguration, QAnon in light of Trump leaving the White House, the new COVID-19 variant, Uyghurs “genocide,” the four nominees for SBC president, the March for Life going virtual this year, and the states Americans are choosing to work from home in. Julie also gives a rundown of some of the ERLC’s most popular content from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

About Julie

Julie Masson serves as Director of External Engagement for the ERLC. She is responsible for strategic planning, development and implementation of the ERLC brand strategy across all ERLC departments and provides leadership and oversight for the ERLC marketing team as well as coordinating external affairs and partnership deliverables. Julie and her husband Jesse spent two years in Spain with the International Mission Board before moving to Kansas City where they live with their three children. She is a graduate of Iowa State University. You can connect with her on Twitter: @juliermasson

Culture

  1. Joe Biden sworn in as 46th president of the United States
  2. Trump departs on final Air Force One flight
  3. QAnon reels following inauguration
  4. STATEMENT ON 2021 MARCH FOR LIFE
  5. New California Variant May Be Driving Virus Surge There, Study Suggests
  6. Field of Flags’ put on display at the National Mall ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration
  7. U.S. declares China’s actions against Uyghurs “genocide”
  8. Randy Adams announced as nominee for SBC president
  9. Pastor @EdLitton to be third candidate for SBC president
  10. The states Americans headed to the most in 2020, according to U-Haul

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