The Uyghur genocide: Why aren’t we doing more?

The Uyghur genocide: Why aren’t we doing more?

By Reverend Christopher White

[The speech I delivered on November 23, 2021 in Ottawa on Parliament Hill regarding the Uyghur genocide].

I want to first thank Mehmet Tohti of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy project for the invitation to speak today.

Salaam Alaikum, I bring you greetings both from my congregation, Kedron United Church in Oshawa ON and from Broadview Magazine, which has supported my writing about the genocide that is happening at this very moment, while we gather under the freedom of Canada’s parliament.

There is that old saying that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it and that is exactly what has happened.

Just this past weekend my nephew presented his one person play about his Jewish great grandmother in Poland and the pograms and hatred that threatened her very life before she came to Canada.

Sadly, all her extended family perished in the Treblinka death camp.

We have seen the cost and face of genocide, it is still within the living memory of people in this country.

We promised… Never again, never again would we sit idly by and watch a group of people be dehumanized and attacked for their religion and ethnicity.

Reverend Christopher White speaking in Ottawa at Parliament Hill 

Today we stand in the shadow of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, just days after Remembrance Day, when the words of John McCrae echoed across our country:

“To you from failing hands we pass the torch, be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep.

The torch was passed….and tragically has been dropped.

Dropped by those who profit by doing business with China and don’t want to acknowledge and refuse to see the price of doing business with a regime that only accepts conformity and obedience and brutally punishes those it identifies as enemies and imprisons a whole population.

The torch has been dropped by the IOC and the Canadian Olympic Committee, who want to pretend that their actions in going to Beijing do not contribute to a genocide.

China acts with impunity because everyone wants to and will continue to do business with them, no matter how many thousands upon thousands of bodies are shattered in the process.

It is a national scandal that this Christmas will be brought to all Canadians as a Made in China event only through the unspeakable suffering of others.

I am a Christian, I am a follower of Jesus, the Jesus whose town was invaded and every male child slaughtered under the age of 2, by a paranoid King who saw him as a threat to his power.

The Jesus that had to flee to Egypt as a child, because that same King continued to seek his life.

And a Jesus was ultimately executed by a far away empire, who saw him as a problem to be solved and not as a gift.

But as a Christian, I am a person who also believes in resurrection. A resurrection that is about transformation, that the world can change and that we, all of us, can be agents of that change.

But it will not come without effort, it will take all of us as Christians, as Muslims and Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus and Jains and Indigenous people, every Canadian to pressure both business and government to stop their tacit support of what is happening.

To demand that retailers go above and beyond to label their goods, LAOGAI Free, so we know that slave labour did not go into their manufacture.

To ask our governments  to support this move, and for we, as faith communities to speak to local retailers asking that these be enacted.

Three weeks ago, my very first grandchild was born.

She is a child that is surrounded by the love of her parents, grandparents and extended family.

Every child, absolutely every child, should be surrounded by love and not fear.

Every child should be valued for who they are, not persecuted and shipped off to Chinese Residential Schools.

We will do better, we must do better. This genocide cannot stand.

Thank you all so very much.

[Rev. Christopher White is a minister at Kedron United Church in Oshawa, Ont.]