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The March for the Martyrs, the first large-scale march in American history standing in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world, returns to the nation’s capital for its third annual march on Saturday.
The founding president of For the Martyrs, Gia Chacon, told Fox Digital: “Christian persecution is a human rights crisis and should be addressed with the same urgency as any other crisis.”
The international ecumenical organization Open Doors USA reported that in 2021, 5,898 Christians were killed for their faith and 5,110 churches and other Christian buildings were attacked, with 6,175 believers detained without trial, arrested, convicted or imprisoned around the world.
According to Open Doors USA, more than 360 million Christians worldwide face extreme persecution and discrimination because of their faith.
Chacon says the march this year will have a special focus on China and Turkey.
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On Monday, the trial began against the former archbishop of Hong Kong, who was arrested by the Chinese Communist Party earlier this year.
Cardinal Joseph Zen was arrested for allegedly collaborating with foreign forces by failing to register his pro-democracy charitable foundation with the government.
“It is becoming more and more difficult for Christians to practice their faith freely. We are watching China. Several organizations are predicting that the persecution coming to Christians in China will be on the same level as Mao’s China.. .persecution in China, it’s becoming more digital,” Chacon said.
David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, predicted that China is setting the tone for future religious persecution with the use of surveillance systems:
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“China [is] monitor[ing] the religious behavior of their citizens to score any kind of participation or religious practice as a deduction on their social score so that they end up being put on a no travel list… because they went to a bible study or a mosque or that their children mustn’t go to university.”
“These are the kinds of things that happen on a small scale now. But over time, when you have that centralized control, it’s going to be significant,” Curry told Fox News Digital.
Speakers at the march include survivors of Christian persecution and leaders of Christians and other faiths. Former NBA player and devout Muslim Enes Kanter Freedom is among them.
He told Fox News Digital: “A message that I want to give [is] it doesn’t matter what your religion is, your culture, your skin color, whoever you are. I think the most important thing in life is [to] live your differences and try to find what we have in common.”
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The Turkish basketball star has used his influence to highlight the injustice of dictators in defense of basic human rights.
“We’re glad to have Enes. We think it’s important that we have some kind of Muslim background to talk about this issue because it sends a message not only to Muslims in the United States but around the world that we have to build bridges between Christians and Muslims, and that sends a message of peace,” Chacon said.
Curry says Turkey is significant and is trying to play a big role in the Muslim world, adding that the country is “promoting extremism in many ways. I am concerned about [their] direction… right now.”
Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was arrested in 2016 and released from a Turkish prison after two years, will be one of the speakers at the march.
Pastor Brunson shared with Fox Digital that he was falsely accused of helping to plan an attempted coup in 2016 and “dividing” the country with “Christianity.”
“My case was used to paint Christianity in a very negative light, to accuse me of being a traitor and hating Turks, which is not true. So by accusing me of these things, they kind of used me as an example , and said, ‘this is how the church is in Turkey,'” the priest said.
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He added that “for those Turks who decide they want to become followers of Jesus Christ, they are often seen as traitors, even though they are not.”
Kanter Freedom says Pastor Brunson “didn’t commit a crime. He was in prison for no reason. And that’s unacceptable. And he’s just one example. There are so many other examples of this.”
The March for the Martyrs starts on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on the National Mall.