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The March for the Martyrs, the first large-scale march in U.S. history calling for solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world, will return to the nation’s capital on Saturday for its third annual march.
For the Martyrs founding president Gia Chacon told Fox Digital, “Persecution of Christians is a human rights crisis and should be treated 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 arrested, arrested, convicted or imprisoned around the world without trial.
According to Open Doors USA, more than 360 million Christians worldwide face extreme persecution and discrimination because of their faith.
Chacon says this year’s march will have a special focus on China and Turkey.
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The trial of the former Archbishop of Hong Kong, who was arrested by the Chinese Communist Party earlier this year, began on Monday.
Cardinal Joseph Zen was arrested for allegedly colluding with foreign forces by failing to register his pro-democracy charitable fund with the government.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for Christians to practice their faith freely. We’re looking at China. Several organizations are predicting that the persecution of Christians in China will be at the same level as Mao’s China…Persecution in China is becoming more digital,” Chacon said.
David Curry, President and CEO of Open Doors USA, predicted that China’s deployment of surveillance systems would set the tone for future religious persecution:
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“China [is] monitor[ing] their citizens’ religious behavior, any kind of attendance or religious practice as a deduction from their social score, eventually putting them on a no-travel list… because they went to a Bible study or a mosque, or that their children are allowed don’t go to university.”
“Those are the things that are happening now on a small scale. But over time, when you have that centralized control, it’s going to be significant,” Curry told Fox News Digital.
Speakers at the march will include survivors of Christian persecution and leaders of Christian and other faiths. Among them is former NBA player and devout Muslim Enes Kanter Freedom.
He told Fox News Digital: “A message I want to give [is] It doesn’t matter what religion you belong to, what culture you are from, what color your skin is, who you are. I think the most important thing in life is [to] Live your differences and try to figure out what we have in common.”
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The Turkish basketball star has used his influence to highlight the injustices of dictators in defending basic human rights.
“We are happy to have Enes. We think it’s important that we have a Muslim background to speak about this issue because it sends a message not just to Muslims in the United States but around the world that we need to build bridges between Christians and Muslims Muslims and sends a message of peace,” Chacon said.
Curry says Turkey is important and trying to play an important role in the Muslim world, adding that the country “encourages extremism in many ways [their] Direction… right now.”
Pastor Andrew Brunson, arrested in 2016 and released from a Turkish prison after two years, will be one of the speakers at the march.
Pastor Brunson told Fox Digital that he was falsely accused of helping plan an attempted coup in 2016 and “dividing” the country through “Christianization.”
“My case was used to portray Christianity in a very negative light, to accuse me of being a traitor and hating Turks, which is not true. Then, in accusing me of these things, they sort of used me as an example, and they said, ‘This is how the church is in Turkey,’” the pastor said.
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He added: “Those Turks who choose to become followers of Jesus Christ are often viewed as traitors when they are not.”
Kanter Freedom says Pastor Brunson “committed no crime. He was in prison for no reason. And that is unacceptable. And he’s just an example. There are so many other examples of this.”
The March for the Martyrs begins Saturday at 3:00 p.m. ET on the National Mall.