Focus on the Hui

TO BE HUI IS TO BE MUSLIM

The Hui people form the third largest of the 55 recognised minority groups in China. They are the largest of the Muslim groups, numbering over 11 million people. Geographically dispersed, Hui communities can be found in both rural and urban settings throughout China. Over one-sixth of the total Hui population is found in Ningxia Province.

 

Some suggest that between 1368 and 1644 the Chinese wanted to rid China of foreigners. To avoid persecution Muslim people adapted Chinese language and culture. These are the roots of the present-day Hui population. Hui people have a variety of occupations: butchers, tanners, jewellers, tea traders and shepherds. In north-west China, the Hui are more devout and their physical features are more akin to Central Asian people than Han Chinese. Of all the Muslim groups, the Hui are the most integrated into the majority Han population. The Hui have had long and frequent contact with Han Chinese and speak Mandarin rather than their own ethnic language. What separates them from the majority Han population is their adherence to the Muslim religion and their practices, such as a refusal to eat pork.

 

At various times there has been tension between the Hui and Han Chinese resulting in violent conflict. It would be true to say that there is ongoing animosity and prejudice from the Han Chinese towards the Hui people. As recently as October 2004, some 150 people were reportedly killed when Hui Muslims and Han Chinese fought each other in rural Henan Province, forcing the government to send the military to restore order. As a result Chinese churches seem to have had minimal interest in reaching out to the Hui. They are therefore largely unreached with the gospel, with perhaps only one known small church and one or two fledgling fellowship groups in the whole of China. There is a small number of scattered believers.

 

Hui Muslims worship in thousands of mosques throughout China and Huw men are recognisable by their white skull caps.

 

ENCOUNTERS WITH THE HUI

FEAR OF EVIL SPIRITS

They sat on the heated kang in the simple village home, sipping hot tea and nibbling bread, while talking to the two weary folk who had travelled a long distance to visit them. They talked about the weather, their work of raising livestock and the problems of educating their children in the village without a school. The visitors' attention was drawn to the Qur'anic verses, written in exquisite Arabic calligraphy, decorating the wall of the house.

 

"These verses protect us from evil spirits", the head of the household told the visitors. He went on to tell the story of a woman in their village, who only a week before had been possessed by an evil spirit. When she spoke, it was not her voice, but another speaking through her. The village Imam came and recited the Qur'an in Arabic. He read into a cup of water, which he then had the woman drink. Then he proceeded to write some passages from the Qur'an onto a piece of paper, rolled it up into the shape of a cigarette and told the woman to smoke it and thereby inhale the words of Allah into her body to fight off the demon.

 

The visitors listened attentively and then shared the good news that Jesus the Messiah has authority and victory over all powers of evil. They told the fearful villagers stories from the Injil (Gospels), of Jesus setting people free. There was silence as the listeners pondered the stories.

 

FEAR OF LOSING HUI IDENTITY AND HERITAGE

Growing up under intense Islamic influence, Maria heard the call to prayer from the mosque five times a day. As a child, she recited the Qur'an with neighbourhood friends in one of the many conspicuous mosques dominating the landscape in her home town. "No matter how difficult and painstaking it is to learn Arabic, it is the most beautiful language given by Allah!" she was told.

 

After graduating from high school, Maria left home to attend university in the provincial capital. Her father sternly bade her farewell with the words, "Never forget that you are a Muslim!" While studying at the university, Maria met some followers of Jesus. At their first meeting, while watching the Jesus film, her surprisingly heated question was, "Why are you trying to get us to change our religion?" As they felt her anger, they asked for God's grace and wisdom. Attracted by their love and care, Maria continued to visit them weekly for 18 months. Slowly she let down her guard, borrowed a Bible and studied it together with her new friends. But one day she suddenly burst out, "I was born to be a Muslim and believe in Islam. That cannot be changed. In the past years I was at peace, but since you started telling me about Jesus I have become confused and perplexed. I feel under pressure. I do not want to offend Allah. Therefore, I will not come to your home and listen to stories about Jesus or sing those songs anymore...".

 

FEAR OF SPIRITUAL CONTAMINATION

Xiao Ma met the stranger in the elevator leading to her apartment. At first she thought her to be Korean, but soon found out that the 'foreigner' actually was a Han Chinese lady from the south, who had just moved to her city. She warmly invited the friendly lady to visit her home on the 7th floor. Even though the stranger did not know her apartment number, she felt burdened for Xiao Ma and went to find her. Eventually, she found the flat and Xiao Ma's mother opened the door and invited her in for tea. Other relatives joined them and, while they talked, Xiao Ma cooked delicious local dishes. A friendship began between the newcomer, Xiao Ma and their families. They cooked together, ate together and shared together in Xiao Ma's home as the home of the new friend - even though pork-free - was still 'contaminated' by the fact that she was not a Muslim, but a follower of Jesus.

 

One day, out of the blue, Xiao Ma offered to teach her new friend to cook a local dish in the latter's home. A few days later they sat together baking Western banana bread. Trust had pushed away the fear of being contaminated in the home of the Jesus follower. But the road ahead towards breaking down many other barriers to the good news may be long and steep.

 

OVERCOMING FEAR

Moses, a restaurant owner, is married to Miriam. Their little son is called Ersa (Hui for Jesus). Moses was not aware that their names were found in stories in the Torah and Injil until one day a man came to eat at his restaurant. The stranger was very friendly and interested in him. He showed him the chapters in the Good Book, where the stories of the great prophet Moses, also revered in Islam, were written. Eager to find out more, Moses was excited to take the Good Book home to read the stories.

 

Hussein is a young family man who hires out his vehicle with himself as the driver. Like many Hui, he is friendly and personable, and has recently come into contact with a research student, a follower of Jesus, who uses his taxi service on research trips. They have become good friends and their respective families have occasionally enjoyed communal meals together. They have also had in-depth discussions on matters of faith. Of course, Hussein is as eager for his new friend to embrace Islam as the latter is for his Hui acquaintance to come to Christ.

 

FOR HE BREAKS DOWN GATES OF BRONZE (Ps. 107:16)

Therefore let us...

•  Pray that the love and power of Christ will break the walls of Islam that keep Hui people in the bondage of fear

•  Pray for those oppressed by darkness and evil

•  Pray for many Hui who, like Maria, allow fear of Allah's judgement to drive them away from the love, truth and grace of Jesus

•  Pray for those coming into contact with followers of Jesus, that His love and kindness will melt their prejudices and fears

•  Pray for people like Moses, who are reading the Bible, that the Word will impact their lives

•  Pray for a spiritual thirst for the Living Water and a hunger for the Bread of Life

•  Pray for Han Chinese believers to develop a heart for reaching their Hui neighbours

•  Pray for those who are focused on bringing the gospel to the Hui



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