A church in Urumqi by Josh Summers.
Josh Summers of FarWestChina follows up on our story of Alimjan Yimit, the imprisoned Uyghur Christian pastor of an underground church, and tells us a little about the Uyghur people and Christianity in Xinjiang:
Many people don’t realize that there are government-approved Christian churches in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi. I have personally been inside and sat in on a couple services. According to Chinese law, the government is supposed to supply registered religious organizations with a plot of land and a building in which to meet. Key word: registered.
The ambiguous maze of legality in China is difficult for Christians, both Uyghur and Han, to navigate. Activities such as distributing religious materials and intending to convert people to Christianity violate laws in all of China, but since in Xinjiang the stakes are higher the enforcement of these laws tends to be more strict.
The problem with Uyghur Christians is how all of this – society and the law – work against them. Conversion for a Uyghur, as with many Middle-Eastern peoples, usually results in friction with or abandonment by the family. When they lose their families they must look elsewhere to find support and like-minded believers.
Unfortunately, because of fear between the Han and Uyghur, their presence in a government-approved church is difficult. Racial tension aside, none of the material or services in these churches are offered in the Uyghur languages (at least from what I have personally witnessed).
Finally, to try to convert their friends is against Chinese law. Such was the case for Alimjan Yimit who was the leader of a house church in Kashgar. The result of this unfortunate situation is 15 years in a Urumqi jail with only monthly visits from his wife and two kids.
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