Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbour

A young Uyghur boy in Istanbul (Photo: WJR)
A young Uyghur boy in Istanbul (Photo: WJR)

Last July satellite imagery emerged showing what was believed to be Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang kneeling, blindfolded, as they waited to be led onto trains.

The resonance of this footage with our history shook the Jewish community. It was impossible to ignore.

Our collective memory is so powerful that Jewish leaders across the religious and political spectrum felt compelled publicly to highlight and condemn the treatment of Uyghur Muslims.

It is rare that an issue universally mobilises our community.

When our rallying cries for the rest of the world to join our condemnation fell largely on deaf ears, this ignorance stirred something deep within our conscience.

It is well documented that Genocide does not begin with mass extermination, but rather with incremental policy changes and cultural shifts that go unchecked. Undoubtedly, this ‘re-education’ campaign puts the Uyghurs’ culture, religion, and way of life at risk of extinction.

If history has taught us one thing it is that if we do not stand up until we can be certain of legal definitions, we will surely have waited until it is too late.

Numerous human rights agencies, within and beyond our community, are leading important campaigns in support of the Uyghurs.

And yet it is hard not to feel a profound sense of helplessness. Condemnation is important, but it is not enough.

Judaism unambiguously advocates that to be a bystander in the face of human suffering is tantamount to perpetrating injustice yourself.

Inaction is not an option. World Jewish Relief’s Uyghur Refugee Urgent Appeal is a call to action, providing our community with a way to stand up and support Uyghurs who have escaped persecution.

We cannot assist everyone, but we can support 6,000 of the most vulnerable Uyghur refugees in Turkey, who face daily challenges and live in fear of internment.

World Jewish Relief’s humanitarian team is experienced in responding to the needs of displaced communities.

I am proud to be its President as we intervene at this critical moral juncture, and respond to our community’s inclination not to stand by in the face of human suffering.

Donations to the WJR Uyghur Refugee Urgent Appeal can be made at

About the Author
Henry Grunwald is a founder and first Chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, a former president of the Board of Deputies, and is a criminal barrister.
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