It's not just Christians who are facing increasing persecution in China, and a man from Steinbach is troubled by news out of the country this week.

News agencies are reporting that the International Criminal Court will not be pursuing an investigation into the mass detention of Muslims in China.

Gary Dyck spent ten years living in northwest China prior to accepting the role as Executive Director at Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach in 2018. Dyck says when he moved there, he immediately noticed the systemic racism that existed with government towards the Uighurs, which are Turkic Muslims. Relations were hostile and by 2016 there was increased security and policing in the area he lived. Dyck says a year later it was very evident that fewer and fewer people were out on the street.

According to reports, there are between one and three million Uighurs that have been detained and placed into camps referred to as re-education schools. One of these camps was just a 12 minute drive from Dyck's residence. Dyck describes them as looking like an apartment complex with a high-level security wall, razor wire and lookout towers.

Dyck says at first the camps were not openly talked about. But that changed once it became obvious what was going on behind closed doors. Soon, relations changed and Uighurs lived very fearful lives, choosing to stay to themselves, afraid that they too would be dragged to these camps.

Dyck says this is the greatest incarceration of a people since the holocaust. And, the decision by the International Criminal Court has left him greatly disappointed.

"I feel that once again China is working the system and getting their way in not allowing for a true human rights process to take place," says Dyck.

Recently, the Canadian Parliamentary Subcommittee on International Human Rights (SDIR) recommended that the Canadian government recognize that acts being committed against Uighurs constitute genocide. The SDIR has recommended that the Canadian government impose sanctions on all Chinese government officials responsible for grave human rights abuses against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims.

"I agree," says Dyck. "I've reached out to Ted Falk's office and I recommend people do that and he has agreed he's going to see what they can do to push this matter with the government."

Dyck is also encouraging people to pray about the situation.

"We can't just be gentle with China, we have to be clear and speak truth," he says. "I know China's trying to put it down and hide it, so let's not do that."

Meanwhile, Dyck says prior to COVID-19 gripping our province, he had been in talks with the Canadian Museum For Human Rights in Winnipeg about putting on an awareness event that would include a Uighur mother who was in one of these camps and also an international researcher who has exposed details about the camps. The global pandemic has put that event on pause, though Dyck is hopeful it can happen in 2021.