March 08, 2019
Her story is like so many others -- except that Mihrigul Tursun lived to tell about it. “I begged them to kill me,” she said through a translator. “I would rather die than go through this torture.” Fortunately for the world, the Uyghur mom made it out of the internment camp, one of the hundreds of barb-wired compounds that Chinese officials insist does not exist – even though satellite imagery and testimonies like hers prove otherwise.
As many as two million Uyghurs are being abused in facilities like Mihrigul’s, nightmarish places where men and women are forced to live in cramped and suffocating prison cells, “sleep[ing] in turns, [using] the toilet in front of security cameras, and sing[ing] songs praising China’s Community Party.” Speaking to reporters in the U.S., Turson told horror story after horror story, like being forced to take unknown medication that made them sick, watching her sons be operated on without her consent, and seeing nine women in her cell die.
On a day she will never forget, she was led into a room and placed in a high chair, and her legs and arms were locked in place. “The authorities put a helmet-like thing on my head, and each time I was electrocuted, my whole body would shake violently, and I would feel the pain in my veins.” After a pause, Turson said she didn’t remember what happened next. “White foam came out of my mouth, and I began to lose consciousness,” she recalled. “The last word I heard them saying is that you being an Uyghur is a crime.”
At least 26 countries have called on China to stop these “mass human rights abuses” – including the United States, whose president, vice president, and State Department have worked around-the-clock to help the millions of hurting Chinese. Earlier today in Hong Kong, Ambassador Sam Brownback made it clear that America will not stand by and let this country continue to torture its own people. This is a “war with faith,” Brownback told a roomful of correspondents. And “it is a war they will not win.”
“The Trump administration is deeply concerned,” he warned, “and considers this oppression a deliberate attempt by Beijing to redefine and control members of these Muslim minority groups’ identity, culture and faith… The Chinese Communist Party must hear the cries of its own people for religious freedom and act to correct its wrongs.” Hong Kong, he pointed out, could help lead that effort, with its model of religious diversity left behind from the British rule. If they did, he said, “The gates of religious freedom will fly open in China and the iron curtain of religious persecution will come down.”
Interestingly enough, while China is busy trying to “reeducate” its people, new research shows just how futile that goal may be. In a study just published by Nature Human Behavior Joseph Henrich says that the more traumatic experiences religious people undergo, the more likely they are to cling to their faith. Although he focused specifically on war-ravaged areas, his 1,700 interviews with people scattered throughout Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, and Uganda show that religious devotion only deepens with conflict.
“Among those who were most exposed to war, membership in religious groups increased by 12, 14, and 41 percentage points, respectively. In addition, the researchers found that those who experienced the trauma of war were likelier to attend religious services and were likelier to rank religion as being significant in their lives than those who were not. And in some cases, those effects were surprisingly long-lived.” In places like Tajikistan, that devotion only gets deeper over time. “Even 13 years post-conflict, and there’s no sense in which it declines.”
That may help explain why the crackdown on religion in places like China is actually leading to an explosion of faith. When people are living day to day caring only about the necessities of life, they’re brought back to what’s truly important. Persecuted Christians are connecting more deeply with Christ, because they aren’t distracted by the luxuries of this world. As one Chinese advocate put it, “These social changes have created desire for religion among an increasing number of people, and Christian theology and community respond to the need very well.”
Here in America, where we’re blessed beyond belief, our leaders are traipsing around debating ridiculous things like open bathroom policies and children selecting their own gender because we’re safe and prosperous. We aren’t forced to think about finding food or taking our worship underground. Very few of us are learning the kind of joy that millions of our brothers and sisters around the world have found in very difficult and dangerous circumstances. So many Americans are blessed to know Jesus without the deep pain of physical suffering. As grateful as we are for that, I pray that we never become too comfortable as a church. Because it’s the deep dependence on God that produces the character we need for the fight ahead.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.