Pope Francis delivers his weekly Angelus prayer on Nov. 22 from the window of the apostolic palace overlooking St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. (Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP)
For the first time, Pope Francis has termed China’s Uyghur Muslims a “persecuted” people in a move that human rights activists have been exhorting him to make for years.
Faith leaders, activist groups and governments have alleged genocide against the ethnic Uyghur Muslims in China’s remote Xinjiang region.
According to many international human rights bodies, more than 1 million Uyghur Muslims are held in internment camps in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
In his wide-ranging book Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, the pope writes that “I think often of persecuted peoples: the Rohingya, the poor Uyghurs [and] the Yazidi” in a section dedicated to persecution in Islamic countries.
The Vatican has been reluctant to speak in favor of the Uyghur Muslims after it entered into a secret pact on the appointment of bishops with Beijing in 2018.
Earlier, the pope had spoken out about the Rohingya who fled Myanmar, and the killing of Yazidis by Islamic militants in Iraq, but it is the first time the Holy See has mentioned Uyghurs as persecuted people.
At the internment camps, Uyghurs are reported to be subjected to forced political indoctrination, torture and denial of food and medicine. They are banned from practicing their religion or speaking their language.
Beijing has refuted the allegations, saying the camps are vocational educational centers.
The pope’s 150-page book, due out in December, is a collaboration with his English-language biographer Austen Ivereigh.
Pope Francis also urged governments to consider permanently establishing a universal basic income whereby they give a fixed amount of money to each citizen without any conditions.
Economic, social and political changes are needed to address inequalities after the coronavirus pandemic is curbed, he noted.
“Recognizing the value to society of the work of non-earners is a vital part of our rethinking in the post-Covid world. That’s why I believe it is time to explore concepts like the universal basic income,” he said.
“By providing a universal basic income, we can free and enable people to work for the community in a dignified way.”