Uyghur in Russia

Uyghur
Photo Source:  EnricX - Flickr  Creative Commons 
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People Name: Uyghur
Country: Russia
10/40 Window: No
Population: 3,700
World Population: 12,310,600
Primary Language: Uyghur
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Complete Bible
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Uyghur
Affinity Bloc: Turkic Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Uyghur are a Turkic people whose home is primarily in northwestern China. Their origins can be traced back to Turkic nomads who lived in Siberia. They became independent of the Turks in 744 AD, but they were forced to leave their homeland in 840 AD. It was then that most of them immigrated to western China, where in modern times they have resided in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. China has chosen to use "Xinjiang" to designate the Uyghur region. The Uyghur people, though, prefer to use "East Turkestan" as the name of the area where they have lived for centuries. There is significance to these names. The Chinese name implies that it is part of China. East Turkestan implies that it is separate, and it emphasizes their Turkic roots. Uyghur literally means "allied. " For centuries, the Uyghur were an important link between China and the rest of the world. They lived along the legendary Silk Road and worked as caravan drivers transporting Chinese goods. The strategic locations of their homes allowed them to be the "middlemen" between East Asia and Europe. One can find significant diasporic communities of Uyghurs in the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Smaller communities live in other countries, including Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the United States. Many Uyghurs have left China seeking better opportunities and more freedom for themselves and their children due to the systemic discrimination at the hands of the majority Han Chinese. This oppressive discrimination has become more severe in recent decades given the Chinese government plan to gain greater control over the land and resources of Xinjiang. The Chinese government has turned the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region into a police state, in essence imprisoning Uyghur people in huge "re-education" camps. Families have been separated, with many children removed from their parents and taught to think like the Han Chinese. China essentially seeks to destroy the Muslim Uyghur culture, including the use of the Uyghur language and the practice of their Islamic faith. The goal seems to be the forced assimilation of Uyghurs into the Han Chinese-dominated society with no separate identity or culture, and with the Han Chinese in control. In years past, there have been extremist Uyghurs wanting to separate from China so they can pursue their culture and religious beliefs with greater freedom. The Chinese appear to have used the threat of Uyghur separatist violence as an excuse to carry out the cultural genocide against the Uyghur people. Uyghurs who have managed to escape this persecution, for instance the better educated, are subject to Chinese spies in their new countries, even Canada and the US. These Uyghur refugees also struggle with trauma over the condition of loved ones left behind in China.

What Are Their Lives Like?

One major reason that Uyghurs go to Russia is to improve their education through attending post-secondary institutions. These Uyghur students resemble non-Uyghur students at schools, listening to music and playing sports in addition to pursuing their studies. Like other Uyghur students outside China, though, these students face the possibility that the Chinese government may demand they return home. An extra severe burden comes from the fear of what is happening (or has happened) to their Uyghur relatives back in Xinjiang, China. Unfortunately, the Uyghur diaspora in Russia doesn’t enjoy much greater freedom. The Russian government has been favorable to China regarding the Chinese treatment of the Uyghurs. This includes sending Uyghurs that come to their country back to China. This creates a deeply troubling situation for Uyghurs seeking refuge; they have no safe place to go. Traditionally, the Uyghur were shepherds and oasis farmers. Today, however, many are involved in businesses that include manufacturing, mining, oil drilling, trading, and transportation. Their diet has been greatly influenced by their rural past. They prefer to eat meat and dairy products at every meal, but in an urban setting, that might not always be possible. The Uyghur love to drink tea with milk. Their staple foods also include noodles and round bread made from maize or wheat flour. Singing and dancing are important social activities among the Uyghurs. They play stringed, wind, and percussion instruments. The Mukam ("Twelve Great Melodies") have been part of Uyghur culture for many centuries.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Sunni Islam has been the dominant religion of the Uyghur since the tenth century. In the past, they were Muslim in name only; however, there is some renewal that is currently taking place among them as they continue in their Sunni Islamic faith.

What Are Their Needs?

Sadly, there are probably no Uyghur believers in Christ in Russia. As Muslims, they are taught that Christianity poses a threat to their faith. The Bible has already been translated into the Uyghur language; Christian radio broadcasts and the JESUS Film are also available. In spite of these efforts, the Uyghurs remain basically untouched with the gospel. The eyes of the Uyghurs need to be opened to the saving truth of Jesus Christ. They need to experience the love and grace of the one, true God. This is also the best way for the Uyghur people to flourish as a unique culture under the God who loves all the varied peoples of the world.

Prayer Points

Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through faithful intercession. Pray that the Lord will call missionaries to go to the Uyghurs in Russia. Pray for the Holy Spirit to anoint gospel radio broadcasts for Uyghurs and give them hearts willing to listen. Pray for effectiveness of the JESUS Film among the Uyghurs. Pray the Lord raises up strong local churches among the Uyghurs leading to unstoppable movements to Christ.

Text Source:   Joshua Project