Faith leaders urge international action on ‘potential genocide’ of the Uyghurs

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Image credit: Malcolm Brown, flickr

Forty faith leaders from across the world have signed an open statement calling on the international community to take action over the ‘potential genocide’ of the Uyghurs at the hands of the Chinese government.

The signatories include the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, five Church of England bishops, one Roman Catholic bishop and two cardinals including Myanmar’s Cardinal Charles Bo.

They have taken action after news emerged from Xinjiang (East Turkestan) that least one million Uyghurs are held at ‘re-education’ centres, women have reported being forcibly sterilised, an exiled doctor has spoken of organs being removed, children have been separated from their parents.

The statement says the Uyghurs  are facing one of the worst human tragedies since the Holocaust and  those responsible for the persecution of the Chinese Muslim minority must be held to account, adding that the situation calls into question the willingness of the international community to defend human rights.

 “The clear aim of the Chinese authorities is to eradicate the Uyghur identity. China’s state media has stated that the goal is to ‘break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins”.  

“As faith leaders we are neither activists nor policy-makers. But we have a duty to call our communities to their responsibilities to look after their fellow human beings and act when they are in danger”.

Maajid Nawaz, LBC presenter who went on hunger strike for 48 hours to force a commons debate on the Uyghurs, welcomed the statement but urged the current Archbishop of  Canterbury Justin Welby, and the Pope, to take action and said silence was inexcusable.

“I beseech the serving Archbishop of Canterbury to break his silence on the Uyghur genocide and condemn it. History demands it, morality demands it.”

Stop Uyghur Genocide, the World Uyghur Congress, the Coalition for Genocide Response, Christian Solidarity Worldwide and the Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed the statement.

In a BBC interview last month, China’s ambassador to the UK, when confronted with film of men being herded onto a train, said “false western intelligence” was making up false accusations against China.

Full text of the statement:

“As religious leaders and leaders of belief-based communities, we come together to affirm human dignity for all by highlighting one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust: the potential genocide of the Uyghurs and other Muslims in China.
We have seen many persecutions and mass atrocities. These need our attention. But there is one that, if allowed to continue with impunity, calls into question most seriously the willingness of the international community to defend universal human rights for everyone – the plight of the Uyghurs.
At least one million Uyghur and other Muslims in China are incarcerated in prison camps facing starvation, torture, murder, sexual violence, slave labour and forced organ extraction.
Outside the camps, basic religious freedom is denied. Mosques are destroyed, children are separated from their families, and acts as simple as owning a Holy Quran, praying or fasting can result in arrest.
The world’s most intrusive surveillance state invades every aspect of life in Xinjiang.
Recent research reveals a campaign of forced sterilization and birth prevention targeting at least 80% of Uyghur women of childbearing age in the four Uyghur-populated prefectures – an action which, according to the 1948 Genocide Convention, could elevate this to the level of genocide.
The clear aim of the Chinese authorities is to eradicate the Uyghur identity. China’s state media has stated that the goal is to “break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins.” As the Washington Post put it, “It’s hard to read that as anything other than a declaration of genocidal intent.” High-level Chinese government documents speak of “absolutely no mercy”.
Parliamentarians, governments and jurists have a responsibility to investigate.
As faith leaders we are neither activists nor policy-makers. But we have a duty to call our communities to their responsibilities to look after their fellow human beings and act when they are in danger.
In the Holocaust some Christians rescued Jews. Some spoke out. To quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil … Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act”. After the Holocaust, the world said “Never Again.”
Today, we repeat those words “Never Again”, all over again. We stand with the Uyghurs. We also stand with Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners and Christians throughout China who face the worst crackdown on freedom of religion or belief since the Cultural Revolution.
We urge people of faith and conscience everywhere to join us: in prayer, solidarity and action to end these mass atrocities. We make a simple call for justice, to investigate these crimes, hold those responsible to account and establish a path towards the restoration of human dignity”.


Imam Daayiee Abdoul, Executive Director for Mecca institute, Washington DC, USA

Mufti Shareef Ahmad, Imam Al Madni Center, Lawrenceville, Georgia, USA

The Reverend Jonathan Aitken, London, UK

Sheikh Rashad Ali, Institute for Strategic Dialogue, UK

Imam Shamsi Ali, New York, USA

Sayed Yousif Al-Khoei OBE, Director of Centre of Academic Shia Studies, UK

Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic-Orthodox Archbishop of London, UK

Dr Khalid Anis, Islamic Society of Britain, UK

Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen, Manchester Reform Synagogue, UK

Imam Qari Asim, MBE, Chair, Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, UK

Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Interim Director of Liberal Judaism, UK

Qari Zeshan Balooch, Imam, Ghousia Mosque, Leeds, UK

Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski, Senior Rabbi, Golders Green Synagogue, UK

The Reverend Dr Andrew Bennett, Director and Senior Fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute, and former Canadian Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, Canada

Rabbi Miriam Berger, Finchley Reform Synagogue, UK

Desmond Biddulph CBE, President of the Buddhist Society, UK

Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon and President of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences, Myanmar

Imam Dr Mamadou Bocoum, Muslim Chaplain and Lecturer in Islamic Studies, UK

The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark, UK

Imam Irfan Chishti MBE, Chashtiah Educational Trust, Rochdale, UK

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK

The Bishop of Coventry, UK

Sheikh Imtiyaz Damiel, CEO, Abu Hanifah Foundation, UK

Rabbi Joseph Dweck, Senior Rabbi, S&P Sephardi Community (and Ecclesiastical Authority of The Board of Deputies of British Jews), UK

The Reverend Dr Joel Edwards CBE, UK

Canon Dr Giles Fraser, Rector of St Mary Newington, UK

Sonam T Frasi, FCA, RAS, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for Northern Europe, Poland and the Baltic States, London, UK

Rabbi Dr Moshe Freedman, Senior Rabbi, New West End Synagogue, UK

Rabbi Paul Freedman, Senior Rabbi, Radlett Reform Synagogue, UK

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, Chair of Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors, UK

Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE, UK

Imam Dr Usama Hasan, London, UK

Sheikh Saeed Hashmi, Imam Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking, UK

Shaykh Sultan Niaz ul Hassan, Chairman, Bahu Trust, UK

The Rt Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, MBE QHC, Bishop of Dover, UK

Imam Sheikh Mohammad Ismail DL, Lead Imam, Birmingham Central Mosque, UK

Imam Dr. Abdul Jabbar, Atlanta, USA

Rabbi Richard Jacobi, East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue, UK
Rabbi Dr. Margaret Jacobi, UK

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism, UK Rabbi Dr Elliott Karstadt, Alyth North Western Reform Synagogue, UK Imam Adam Kelwick, Muslim Chaplain, UK The Reverend Cindy Kent MBE, UK

Fr Nicholas King, SJ, Assistant Catholic Chaplain, University of Oxford, UK

Bishop Declan Lang, Catholic Bishop of Clifton, UK

Rabbi Josh Levy, Principal Rabbi, Alyth North Western Reform Synagogue, UK

Al-Haj U Aye Lwin, Chief Convenor, Islamic Centre of Myanmar

Ustadh Dawood Masood, Al-Hira Mosque, Luton, UK

Rabbi David Mason, Muswell Hill United Synagogue and Executive Member of the Rabbinical Council of United Synagogue, UK

Rabbi Monique Mayer, Liberal Judaism, UK

The Reverend Dr Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention in the USA

The Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro, Chair of UK FoRB Forum and former Chair of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Independent Review for the Foreign Secretary of FCO Support for Persecuted Christians, UK

Rabbi Lea Mühlstein, Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue, UK

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Washington, DC, USA

The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-ali, former Anglican Bishop of Rochester, UK

Rabbi Baroness (Julia) Neuberger, UK

Fr Uche Njoku, Parish Priest, St Joseph’s Church, New Malden, UK

Imam Yahya Pallavicini, President of COREIS Islamic Religious Community, Italy

The Rt Rev John Perry, former Bishop of Chelmsford, UK

Shaykh Umar Hayat Qadri, Chair, Suffah Foundation, UK

Mufti Abdul Rahman Qamar, Madni Masjid, LaGuardia, New York, USA

Fr Timothy Radcliffe, former Master of the Dominican Order, UK

Imam Nabel Rafi, Director of the International Centre for Tolerance UK

Dr Sheikh Ramzy, founder, Oxford Islamic Information Centre, UK

Imam Ghulam Rasool QTS, Trustee Bahu Trust UK network, UK

Imam Yusuf Rios, Three Puerto Rican Imams Project , Islamic Learning Foundation Chicago, USA

Fr Dominic Robinson, SJ, Parish Priest, Farm Street Church of the Immaculate Conception and Chair, Justice and Peace Commission, Diocese of Westminster, UK

Abdurahman Sayed, CEO, Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, London, UK

Imam Mustaqeem Shah, Abu Bakr Trust, Walsall, West Midlands, UK

Imam Zaid Shakir, California, USA

The Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Alban’s, UK

Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi: President Fiqh Council of North America and Religious Director, the Islamic Society of Orange County, Garden Grove, Californi, USA

Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo, Archbishop of Jakarta, Indonesia

Canon Dr Andrew White, Ambassador of Jerusalem MERIT, UK

The Rt Hon and Rt Rev Lord Williams of Oystermouth, former Archbishop of Canterbury, UK Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi for Masorti Judaism, UK


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