Catholic bishops have joined faith leaders across Ireland in condemning the persecution of Uyghurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province.
More than 50 representatives of different faith communities signed a statement condemning the persecution, as well as expressing their solidarity with Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners and Christians throughout China who, they warn, are facing ‘the worst crackdown on freedom of religion or belief since the Cultural Revolution’.
The leaders pledge to affirm ‘human dignity for all by highlighting one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust’.
‘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,’ the leaders say, adding: ‘We stand with the Uyghurs.’
Pointing out how some Christians rescued Jews and spoke out against the Holocaust, the statement quotes Lutheran pastor, theologian and anti-Nazi dissident 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’,’ the leaders say. ‘Today, we repeat those words ‘Never again’, all over again.’
While pointing out that they ‘are neither activists nor policy-makers’, the leaders recognise that they ‘have a duty to call our communities to their responsibilities to look after their fellow human beings and act when they are in danger’.
‘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.’
The statement has been signed by the Catholic Bishops Alphonsus Cullinan, of Waterford and Lismore; Larry Duffy, of Clogher; Alan McGuckian, of Raphoe; Fintan Monahan, of Killaloe; and Leo O’Reilly, Emeritus of Kilmore.
Signatories also include well-known Catholic clergy and religious, such as Fr Richard Gibbons, rector of Knock Shrine, in Co. Mayo and homeless campaigner Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, of the Religious Sisters of Charity, Stanhope Street, Dublin.
Signatories from other faiths include Church of Ireland bishops and leaders of Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist faith communities, as well as representatives from interfaith forums.
Dr David O’Brien of the Ruhr University Bochum, who researches and writes on ethnic identity in Xinjiang, said: “The Chinese government wants the world to turn away from the moral outrages it is committing in Xinjiang. It has consistently denied and covered up, but the evidence and the harrowing testimony continues to mount. The international community must protect those that have no voice, speak out, and call this what it is, before it is too late.”
Picture: Ethnic Uyghur women wave flags of the East Turkestan independence movement during a protest in Istanbul. (Murad Sezer, Reuters/CNS).