Introduction / History The Uyghur are a Turkic people located primarily in northwestern China. Significant communities can also be found in Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, with a small number in Afghanistan. Their origins can be traced back to Turkish nomads who lived in Siberia. They became independent of the Turks in 744 AD, but were forced to leave their homeland in 840 AD. It was then that most of them immigrated to western China.
The Uyghurs in Kyrgyzstan represent a very slight percentage of the country's total population. They have been heavily influenced by Russians and other Central Asian peoples; most are bilingual and today, few of them speak Uighur as their first language.
Uyghur literally means "allied." For centuries, the Uyghur were an important link between China and the rest of the world. They lived along the legendary Silk Road and worked as caravan drivers transporting Chinese goods. The strategic locations of their homes allowed them to be the "middlemen" between the Orient and Europe.
What are their lives like? Traditionally, the Uyghur were shepherds and oasis farmers. Today, however, many are involved in businesses such as manufacturing, mining, oil drilling, trading, and transportation. Their diet has been greatly influenced by their rural past. Meat is eaten at every meal, and dairy products are enjoyed daily. The Uyghur love to drink tea with milk. Their staple foods also include noodles and round bread made from maize or wheat flour.
The typical Uyghur house is square. It includes skylights and a flat roof that is used for drying grains and fruits. Bed frames, built low to the ground, are made of bricks so that they can be heated. They are used for both sleeping and sitting. Wall carpets are often used to decorate the home.
Various political, religious, and ethnic conflicts have characterized the history of the Uyghur. Nevertheless, they are still described as being a "proud, happy, and independent people." They possess a unique blend of cultural elegance all their own. While remaining isolated enough to preserve their rural simplicity, they successfully made many contacts with other cultures. Such a rare mixture of simplicity and sophistication has given the Uyghur a unique and obvious charm.
Singing and dancing are important social activities among the Uyghurs. They play stringed, wind, and percussion instruments. The Mukam ("Twelve Great Melodies") have been part of Uyghur culture for many centuries.
Uyghur men usually wear long robes that have distinctive collars. The robes are fastened on the right side and have long waist bands. The village women wear loose-sleeved, one-piece dresses covered with black vests. Today, however, it is becoming more common for those living in cities to wear western style clothing.
The Uyghur of Central Asia play an important role in the lives of the Chinese Uyghur who are struggling to gain their independence. For example, they often help by smuggling needed materials into China. In China, there is evidence of much hostility, bitterness, hurt, and mistrust between the Uyghur and the Han Chinese.
What are their beliefs? Islam has been the dominant religion of the Uyghur since the tenth century. In the past, they were Muslim in name only; however, there is some renewal that is currently taking place among them. Today, all of the Uyghur in Kyrgyzstan claim to be Muslims.
What are their needs? Sadly, however, there are no known converts. As Muslims, they are taught that Christians are their enemies. The Bible has already been translated into the Uyghur language; Christian radio broadcasts and the Jesus film are also available. Nevertheless, in spite of these efforts, they remain basically untouched with the Gospel.
The eyes of the Uyghurs need to be opened to the saving truth of Jesus Christ. They need to experience the love and grace of the one, true God.
Prayer Points Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
Pray that the Lord will call missionaries to go to Kyrgyzstan and share Christ with the Uyghurs.
Ask God to grant favor to missions agencies focusing on the Uyghur.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio.
Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Uyghurs towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Uyghurs.
Pray that God will open the hearts of Kyrgyzstan's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Uyghurs.