Saturday, a Muslim NBA vet marches for persecuted Christians

Saturday, a Muslim NBA vet marches for persecuted Christians


Enes Kanter Freedom, a former Celtics player, will deliver the keynote address at the March for the Martyrs. / Freedom: Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0, accessed via Wikimedia Commons; Martyrs: National Catholic Register screenshot

Boston, Massachusetts, September 23, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Enes Kanter Freedom, a veteran of the NBA, has using his platform as a professional basketball player to directly target the Chinese Communist Party for its grave human rights violations.

“People must comprehend this… The Chinese Communist Party does not embody Olympic values such as excellence, respect, and camaraderie. The entire world is aware that they are a ruthless regime that engages in censorship, tramples on freedoms, disregards human rights, and conceals the truth,” Freedom told Laura Ingraham of Fox News in February.

Since February, however, no team has signed the 6-foot-10, 250-pound center to a contract, and he and others say he’s paying the price for his activism, which includes explicitly calling out the NBA, his former team the Boston Celtics, and other league players for hypocrisy, citing their relationship with and failure to condemn China.

The 30-year-old appears more committed than ever to defending human rights.

Freedom, a practicing Muslim from Turkey, will speak at Saturday’s March for the Martyrs in Washington, D.C., an event dedicated to bringing attention to the situation of persecuted Christians worldwide.

Gia Chacon, founder and president of For the Martyrs, the organization organizing the march, remarked, “His voice in this generation is extremely vital.” Chacon told CNA on August 25 that Freedom “had the world at his fingers,” but that he “gave up all to fight for the voiceless.”

Chacon stated that the purpose of the March for the Martyrs is to “fight the silence” surrounding Christian persecution. In addition, it seeks to raise the attention and prayers of Western Christians to the worldwide persecuted church.

But why did Chacon select a Muslim to speak at an event promoting the rights of persecuted Christians?

She explains why it is necessary to build a bridge between Muslims and Christians.

“For him to speak about persecuted Christians and the significance of religious freedom makes this problem all the more potent,” she remarked.

“And,” she added, “it’s a message to Muslims — not just in the United States, but around the world — that we need to build a bridge between Christians and Muslims,” especially considering the fact that Islamist terrorists are among the leading persecutors of Christians.

This will not be Freedom’s first time speaking about religious liberty. In June, he addressed the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, D.C.

In June, Freedom also established his charity, the Enes Kanter Freedom Foundation, which, according to the Washington Times, works for civil rights in authoritarian nations such as China and Turkey. The Times reported that Freedom will assume complete responsibility for the foundation’s operations.

Freedom wrote on Facebook on June 22: “I’m so pleased to introduce my new foundation, which seeks to promote #Freedom, #UniversalValues, #SocialHarmony, #PovertyAlleviation, #HumanRights, and #Democracy across the globe.” On Freedom’s website is a donation link for the foundation.

Freedom was born in Switzerland and reared in Turkey prior to his arrival in the United States to play basketball. He was selected third overall by the Utah Jazz in the 2011 NBA draft and made his debut the same year.

The Bleacher Report has named him one of the most underrated players of the previous decade, citing his top-ten career and offensive rebounding numbers, as well as his court awareness.

Freedom has long been a detractor of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoan, frequently referring to him as a dictator. Freedom has stated in earlier interviews that, despite the fact that his family still resides in Turkey, he has not spoken to them in years, which distresses him. He asserts, however, that communication must be severed due to the political context and his criticism of the regime.

Freedom stated in 2019 that he skipped a team trip to London as a member of the New York Knicks because he feared for his life, while calling the Turkish president a “freaking crazy” and a “dictator.”

Chacon; David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA; Esther Zang, a survivor of Christian persecution in China and North Korea; Jacob Coyne, founder of Stay Here, an organization dedicated to ending the mental health crisis and suicide; Fr. Simon Esshaki, a Chaldean Catholic priest; Jason Jones, a filmmaker, humanitarian, and founder of the Vulnerable People Project; Shane Winnings, CEO and President of Overcrowd; and Fr. Simon Ess

Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor who toiled for years to propagate Christianity in the Middle East before being imprisoned in Turkey for two years, will deliver another keynote lecture.

In addition to his imprisonment, his experience as a pastor in the Middle East would be the subject of his address, Chacon stated.

One thousand people are anticipated during this year’s march, which begins at 3 p.m. with a protest on the National Mall before heading to the neighboring Museum of the Bible. A new element to this year’s event is free bus transportation for groups of 50 individuals located three or four hours away from the march.

Chacon stated that the buses will pick up the groups and leave them off at the conclusion of the evening. Interested groups can send an email to contact@forthemartyrs.com.

Chacon’s ministry also organizes an annual mission trip to visit persecuted Christians around the globe. Chacon and her colleagues traveled to Iraq in 2021.

The organization raises awareness of Christian persecution via online content, particularly videos. Chacon stated that the organization also finances international development projects to benefit persecuted Christians, such as a computer lab in Iraq for internally displaced Christians.

According to Open Doors USA, an organization devoted to assisting persecuted Christians throughout the world, more than 360 million Christians experience persecution and discrimination due to their faith.

The organization that maintains a “World Watch List” of “The top 50 countries where it is most difficult to follow Jesus” ranks Afghanistan as the world’s leading persecutor of Christians, citing “Islamic persecution.”

The remaining countries in the top 10 are North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, and India, in that order. China ranks seventeenth on the list. Turkey is ranked 42.


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