Introduction / History Before 1921 the various Turkic groups in Xinjiang called themselves by the name of the oasis near which they lived. When Turkic leaders met in Tashkent in 1921, they chose the name Uygur as the mark of their identity. Uygur means "unity" or "alliance." Uyghurs speak a Turkic language, related to Uzbek, Kazakh, and Kirgiz. It also contains loanwords from Chinese, Arabic, Persian, Russian, and Mongolian. In the mid-eighth century the Uyghurs inhabited part of present-day Mongolia. Around AD 840 they were attacked from the north by the Kirgiz and fled southwest to their current homeland in what is now China's Xinjiang Province. Xinjiang is the border between the Chinese and the Turkic worlds. It is part of China, but the Uyghur people are Turkic in their looks, their religion and their culture. Many want to break away from China, causing violent clashes between the powerful Chinese government and the Uygur minority. As a result, some have left their homeland.
Where are they located? Most the Uyghurs live in China, but many live in neighboring Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan and Turkey. There are a small number in Australia and other "Western" nations.
What are their lives like? Most of the Uyghurs in Australia have arrived recently. They face trauma, and a deep-seated fear for the lives of those who remained in China. To make matters worse, the Chinese government sometimes successfully monitors them in other countries. All this time they are trying to deal with trauma and build new lives.
What are their beliefs? Most Uyghurs follow folk Islam. They confess Islam, a religion that does not offer life to the full. The mosque is a place for them to meet other Sunni Muslims. Those who confess Christ face social ostracism at a time when they are already emotionally damaged. Few will take that step.
What are their needs? Uyghurs must deal with emotional trauma in their new homelands. Most need to learn English and gain job skills.
Prayer Points Pray that Uyghurs in Australia will surrender their hearts and minds to the Risen Christ. Pray for Australian believers to reach out to the Uyghurs among them. Pray for a strong disciple making movement among Uyghurs in Canada that will affect other Muslim peoples in that country.