Pope Francis has defined for the first time the Chinese Muslim Uighurs a “persecuted” people, something that human rights activists have been urging him to do for years.
In the wide-ranging book Let Us Dream: the Path to a Better Future, he said: “I often think of persecuted peoples: the Rohingya, the poor Uyghurs, the Yazidis” in a section where he also talks about Christians persecuted in countries.
The pope has spoken in the past of the Rohingya who fled Myanmar and the killing of Yazidis by the Islamic State in Iraq, but it is the first time that he mentions Uighurs.
Religious leaders, activist groups and governments have said that crimes against humanity and genocide are taking place against the Muslim Uyghur minority in China’s remote Xinjiang region, where more than 1 million people are being held in camps.
Beijing has dismissed the allegations as an attempt to discredit China, saying the camps are centers of vocational education and training as part of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures.
Many commentators said the Vatican was reluctant to talk about Uighurs earlier because it was in the process of renewing a controversial agreement with Beijing on the appointment of bishops. The agreement, which Pompeo urged to leave the Vatican, was renewed in September.
In the book – a 150-page collaboration with his English-language biographer Austen Ivereigh, out in December – Francis also said that the Covid-19 pandemic should spur governments to consider permanently establishing a universal basic income. . He talks about the economic, social and political changes that he believes are needed to address inequalities after the end of the pandemic.
He also said that people who see wearing masks as an imposition by the state were “victims only in their imaginations” and praised those who protested George Floyd’s death in police custody for protesting the “healthy indignation” that united them.
Francis’s support for universal basic income (UBI) – a controversial policy espoused by some economists and sociologists in which governments give a fixed amount of money to each citizen with no set conditions – was even more clear.
UBI was a cornerstone of Andrew Yang’s campaign last year during the Democratic presidential primary in the United States.
“Recognizing the value of non-worker work for society is a vital part of our rethinking in the post-Covid world. That’s why I think it’s time to explore concepts like universal basic income (UBI) … “he said.
“By providing a universal basic income, we can free up and enable people to work for the community in a dignified way.”
Francis again criticized the cascade economy, the theory favored by conservatives that tax breaks and other incentives for big business and the rich will ultimately benefit the rest of society through investment and job creation.
He called it “the false assumption of the infamous drip theory that a growing economy will make us all richer.”