The March for the Martyrs, the first large-scale march in U.S. history to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world, will return 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 it should be treated with the same level of 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, sentenced or imprisoned around the world.
According to Open Doors USA, more than 360 million Christians around the world face extreme persecution and discrimination because of their faith.
Chacon says this year the march will have a special focus on China and Turkey.
On Monday, the trial began for the former archbishop of Hong Kong who was arrested earlier this year by the Chinese Communist Party.
Cardinal Joseph Zen was arrested for allegedly colluding with foreign forces by failing to register his pro-democracy charity fund with the government.
“It’s becoming more and more difficult for Christians to practice their faith freely. We’re watching out for China. Multiple organizations predict that it’s that the persecution that’s coming to Christians in China is going to be on the same level as Mao’s China… persecution in China is going more digital,” said Chacon.
David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, predicted China is setting the tone for future religious persecution with the use of monitoring systems:
“China [is] monitor[ing] the religious behavior of their citizens to score any sort of attendance or religious practice as a withdrawal on their social score, so that eventually they’re put on a no travel list… because they went to a Bible study or a mosque, or that their kids aren’t allowed to go to the university.”
“These are the kinds of things that are happening on a small scale now. But over time, as 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 from Christian and other faiths. Former NBA player and devout Muslim Enes Kanter Freedom is among them.
He told Fox News Digital, “One 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.”
The Turkish basketball star has used his influence to highlight the injustices of dictators in defense of fundamental human rights.
“We’re happy to have Enes. We think it’s important that we have sort of a Muslim background to speak to 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, and it sends a message of peace,” said Chacon.
Curry says Turkey is significant and trying to play a major role in the Muslim world, adding that the country “is promoting extremism in many ways. I’m concerned with [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 “Christianization.”
“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. Then by accusing me of these things, they were, in a sense, using me as an example, saying, ‘this is what the church is like in Turkey,’” said the pastor.
He added that “for those Turks who decide that they want to become followers of Jesus Christ, then they are often seen as traitors, even though they are not.”
Kanter Freedom says Pastor Brunson “did not commit any crime. He was in jail for no reason. And that is unacceptable. And he’s only one example. There are so many other examples of this.”
The March for the Martyrs will start Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on the National Mall.