The following story, though fictitious, is based largely upon many conversations we have had with Western Chinese people.
A hint of anger rushed over his face. “I hate them!” he exclaimed. “Why can’t they just let us live our lives our way? We just want to live in peace!”
As Alimjam continued to vent his frustrations, two things immediately caught my attention. First, I couldn’t help but notice his fluency in Mandarin Chinese. Yes, he like many college-aged Uyghurs learned Mandarin in grade school. But his Mandarin was near perfect. He had already impressed me when we first met a couple of weeks previous as he had the best Mandarin of any Uyghur I had ever interacted with. But a person shows the depth of their second-language learning when they are angry. In their frustration, they often stumble over words they would otherwise be able to say when calm as their speech cannot keep up with how fast their emotions are raging. Me being impressed is an understatement.
The second thing that took me by surprise, albeit a few moments later, was the bright hazel shade of his eyes. Living in China the previous three years, I didn’t often interact with people of any eye color other than very dark brown. And yet, Alimjam’s eyes paired with his full beard and European-esque face all stood in stark contrast with the rest of my Chinese friends.
Yes, that’s right. Though Alimjam is Uyghur, he is Chinese. Though he detests his nationality, he is Chinese. Though he is of Turkic decent, he is Chinese. Though if he is to learn the Chinese language it must be as a second language since his parents speak very little Chinese, he is Chinese. Though he is Muslim, he is Chinese. Though he, his family, and his people feel totally other-than, he is Chinese. At least, that is what China says. China says he is Chinese.
“You and I,” Alimjam continued in his tirade, “have something in common that neither of us have in common with Chinese people.”
“What’s that?” I asked, curiosity piqued.
I froze. I had never thought of that before. True enough, as far as he sees things, at least he and I each believe in something. Though the God of the Bible is vastly different from that of Islam, at least we each believe in the divine.
“These Chinese are godless pagans! Some may say they worship Buddha, but we know that is shallow at best. They are godless, living for nothing more than for themselves, their wallets, and their bellies! You know it’s true!”
In many ways, I saw where he was coming from. Being officially atheist for decades now, China has taught both atheism and evolution in its classrooms for just as long. On the whole, there is no thought of a Creator God, His Lordship, and an afterlife. Generally speaking, most Chinese are told to give their allegiance to the state, follow Confucian principles of devotion to family, and live entirely for the present world. What’s more, though the constitution technically guarantees “freedom of religion”, they are truly only “free” to choose from a short list of permissible religions. Moreover, choosing one of those religions, one must follow it as the government directs, not as the individual would so choose.
Islam has made that short list, though that is probably more because the nation at the time of the writing of the current constitution already had practicing Muslims, like Alimjam, within its borders than because the nation truly approves of Islam. Wanting to tide over such people, at least until they could be influenced otherwise, was almost certainly the idea. In modern times, both Alimjam’s testimony and news trickling out of the region would both indicate that the time to influence them otherwise is at hand.
As Alimjam continued, he spoke of how his girlfriend was forced to join the military against her and her family’s beliefs and was stationed along the South China coast — far away from her West China home. Alimjam himself was forced to come to his current university of study where the majority of his classmates were non-Uyghur Chinese. He said it was all because there was a push to “brainwash” them out of their Muslim faith and assimilate them into the greater non-religious society.
Though the terms “Muslim” and “Islam” certainly don’t immediately come to mind when thinking of Chinese people, China is home to some 20 million Muslims, and over half of those are ethnically Uyghur. Though they are vastly different by language, culture, religion, customs, and way of life from other Chinese people, they and other Chinese Muslims share one common denominator with the rest of China: they need to hear and believe the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
You see, regardless of whether a person has black eyes or hazel eyes; lives in the majority or in the minority; believes in no God, believes in Buddha, or believes in Allah; they all need to hear the good news of salvation offered in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Atheism cannot save because God says that the fool has said in his heart that there is no God.
Buddhism and ancestor worship cannot save because Jesus says that He is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one can get to the Father but through Him.
Islam, Allah, and praying toward Mecca cannot save because God commands the nations that pray to gods that cannot save to look unto Him and be saved because He is God and there is none else – there is none beside Him!
Friends, as you pray for China, pray not only for the Atheists and Buddhists, but also for the 20 million plus Muslims. Pray that God would continue to raise up more men to go to China bearing and preaching the name of the Lord Jesus Christ so that the people of China such as Alimjam, regardless of ethnicity, culture, and religion, could hear the name of Jesus, believe upon His name, call upon His name, and be saved.