Uyghur Muslims

Quick Facts

Place of Origin:  Uyghurs are from Central Asia where their territory is considered an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China.
Language:  Uyghur language
Religion:  The major religions in Xinjiang are Islam among the Uyghurs and the Hui Chinese minority. There aren't many known Uyghur followers of Jesus anywhere globally, with a few possibly residing in southern Ontario and in Montreal.
Population:  13.5 million
The meaning of the Uyghur flag:  The star and the moon on the flag of Uyghur (also East Turkestan) represents Islam and the blue represents the sky. It substituted the old flag with white crescent (young Waxing Moon) on blue background and Shahada, that was adopted on November 12, 1933, during the Declaration of the Turkish Islamic Republic of East Turkestan, when Khoja Niyaz retreated from Aksu from advancing Dungans and came to Kashgar with 1,500 troops to assume the Presidency of the East Turkestan Republic on January 13, 1934.
Status in the GTA:  There are estimated to be between several hundred and one thousand Uyghurs in the GTA with 5–7 Uyghur restaurants, and even smaller concentrations of them across Canada.
Status in Canada: In 2022, a group of Canadian MPs and others advocated for over 10,000 Uyghurs from China to be welcomed to resettle in Canada. The federal government has hesitated to declare what is happening to the Uyghurs in China a “genocide.”

When did Uyghur Muslims first come to Canada?

Uyghur Muslims are relative newcomers to Canada, with the first wave of immigrants arriving in the early 1980s.  Because of ongoing difficulties in their homeland, many Uyghur Muslims desire to take refuge in Canada.   Any Uyghur Muslims currently emigrating to the Canada do so from outside of China. 

Are Uyghur Muslims scattered across Canada?

Most live in Etobicoke, Mississauga, or Scarborough in the GTA. There are also Uyghurs living in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Windsor, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and the Greater Vancouver Area.
Population estimate in the GTA:  Between several hundred and one thousand

What are Uyghur Muslims' lives like?

  • Uyghurs have historically been farmers, shepherds, and skilled independent merchants. 
  • Uyghurs in the diaspora often face discrimination, including from other Muslims. 
  • Many Uyghurs living outside of their homeland have a strong sense of uncertainty and cautiousness. 
  • It has been reported that it is not uncommon for wealthy Uyghurs in the diaspora to have their money frozen, hindering their economic situation and future.
  • Most Uyghurs in the GTA are living with profound trauma, loss, and survivors' guilt. They also wrestle with identity, asking “what does it mean to be Uyghur now?”
  • Uyghurs living in the GTA find it difficult to travel freely globally. 
  • Uyghurs in the GTA struggle to trust others, particularly other Uyghurs.

What do Uyghur Muslims believe?

  • Historically, the Uyghur religion has largely been driven by an empire.
  • From animism, Uyghur beliefs mingled with Buddhism, Taoism, Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism, and Nestorianism. 
  • Following the Arab invasion in the 8th century, Sunni Islam increasingly became the dominant Uyghur belief system. 
  • The rise of communist ideology in China has meant the Uyghur worldview increasingly fuses atheism, folk Islam, and religious practices rooted in inarticulate traditional Central Asian customs and practices.  
  • Some Uyghurs also worship Jesus Christ. While quantitative numbers are difficult to find, anecdotal evidence and reports suggest there are 10,000+ Uyghur followers of Jesus in China. Known Uyghur fellowships also exist in other Central Asia nations. There are also scattered Uyghur believers throughout the diaspora, including in Canada. 

for Uyghur Muslims in the GTA

  •  Pray for an end to the Uyghur struggle in their homeland and globally. Pray that Jesus finds them and saves them so that they know they are not alone.
  • Pray for God’s protection, peace and wisdom over the lives of Christians working in the areas of research, policy, and advocacy to end Uyghurs' suffering.
  • Pray for Chinese believers and churches in the GTA to  reach  out to Uyghurs with courage,  empathy, humility, and practical gospel love.
  • Pray that as Uyghurs become followers of Jesus, that they become missionaries to their own people group and other people groups globally.
  • Pray for gospel media outreach efforts to Uyghurs.
  • Pray the Lord will raise up labourers from Canadian churches to reach out to Uyghurs in the GTA with Christ’s love and the message of the gospel.
  • Pray for the love of Christ to soften the hearts of anyone who caused pain and stress for Uyghurs.
  • Pray for Christian counsellors to serve Uyghurs in the GTA.


Urban Research Assisting Churches is a website that seeks to provide an accessible online portal for receiving and sharing tools, information, expertise, and resources related to engaging and embracing the diverse peoples of Canada. Click the Ureach Toronto Logo for more resources on Uyghur Muslims.
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For prayer resources on Muslims, click the Prayercast logo.