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China’s persecution of the Uyghurs, nine million Turkic-speaking Muslims, will be the focus of an inter-faith conference in Toronto on July 5.

Most of the Uyghurs live in Xinjiang, a vast desert region of Western China.

The group “One Free World International” will host the 7-9 p.m. event at Catch The Fire Church, formerly known as Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, to raise awareness and support for the Uyghur community. Speakers will include members of the Canadian Parliament and leaders from the Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities

“Our main goal is to bring awareness to the situation in East Turkistan and the plight of the Uyghurs living under Chinese colonial rule,” said One Free World’s founder, the Rev. Majed El Shafie, who is an Egyptian Christian. “We will also promote and bring attention to the urgent needs of the Uyghur refugees.”

Two years ago, on July 5, 2009, several thousand Uyghurs, mostly university students, peacefully gathered in the Xinjiang capital city of Urumqi to protest what they charged were the longstanding discriminatory policies of the Chinese government towards the Uyghurs and the repression of their religious, political, educational, linguistic and economic rights.

Chinese security forces used lethal force on the demonstrators, leading to hundreds dead and thousands injured in what has been described as the deadliest outbreak of violence in China in years.

Chinese authorities continue to pursue and arrest people in connection with the 2009 event, even hunting Uyghur refugees who have left China, said El Shafie.

“Millions of Uyghurs have been killed since China invaded East Turkistan,” he said, “however the world remains silent. It is time for us to unite and stand together. It is time for our voices to be heard. Religious persecution of any kind is unacceptable.”

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