Former NBA star calls for persecution at religious freedom summit

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Former NBA star Enes Kanter Freedom was one of the many attendees at this week’s International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington DC. He told Fox News Digital that he would attend to learn how to better contribute to combating religious persecution.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle, religious leaders and freedom advocates came together to discuss some of the most egregious acts of religious persecution happening in the world today.

Kanter Freedom, professional basketball player and devout Muslim, was born in Switzerland to Turkish parents. He has used his influence to highlight the injustices of dictators in defending basic human rights.

American pro basketball player Enes Kanter Freedom meets with advocates at breakfast at the IRF Summit. (Courtesy of the IRF Summit.)
(Courtesy: IRF Summit)


The former Boston Celtics player legally changed his last name to “Freedom” when he became a US citizen last year and has caught the attention of many with his creative sneakers that highlight religious and political persecution around the world. His sneakers have logos for “Free Tibet”, “Free Uyghur” and in a nod to this year’s Winter Olympics: “No Beijing 2022”.

Just last week, US Customs and Border Protection began enforcing provisions of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Law, which bans forced labor products made in China’s Xinjiang province from being imported into the United States.

In a statement last month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said addressing forced labor and other human rights abuses in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and around the world is a priority.

A Uyghur woman walks past a mosque in the city of Kuqa, west China's Xinjiang Province.  In China's troubled western province of Xinjiang, young men belonging to the Uyghur ethnic minority are banned from wearing a beard.  Certain types of headscarves, veils and headscarves for women are also prohibited "jilbabs," loose, full-length garments worn in public.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

A Uyghur woman walks past a mosque in the city of Kuqa, west China’s Xinjiang Province. In China’s troubled western province of Xinjiang, young men belonging to the Uyghur ethnic minority are banned from wearing a beard. Also prohibited are certain types of women’s headscarves, veils and “jilbabs”, loose, full-length garments worn in public. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
(The Associated Press)

“We have taken concrete actions to promote accountability in Xinjiang, including visa restrictions, Global Magnitsky financial sanctions, export controls, declassification orders and import restrictions, and the release of cross-agency business advice on Xinjiang to help U.S. companies avoid trade that is being traded.” facilitated or benefited from human rights violations, including forced labour,” the statement said.

Kanter Freedom told Fox News Digital that he’s attending the summit to “educate himself.”

“The main thing I want to see is that they just come here because I know a few people, I know stories about their struggles and obviously the platform that I’ve been given is of God (and) it has tremendous reach around the world. So I’m trying to do everything I can to just get people’s stories so I can share them with the whole world,” he said.


One such survivor of religious persecution is Bob Fu, a house church leader in China, where he and his wife were jailed for two months on charges of engaging in illegal religious activities as church pastors in Beijing. Both fled to the United States in 1997 as religious refugees.

Today, Fu is a leading voice for persecuted faith communities in China and founded ChinaAid, a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring international attention to China’s gross human rights abuses and to promote religious freedom and the rule of law in China.

Chinese authorities demolished a church in Sunzhuang in 2020.

Chinese authorities demolished a church in Sunzhuang in 2020.
(Courtesy of ChinaAid)


Fu added that he is driven by his belief in God and that sharing his organization is “motivated by a part of Scripture where Jesus said if I’m hungry give me a piece of bread, you know, if I’m thirsty, a cup of water”. Adding his cries was answered when accepted by the United States.

He concluded by stating that he was on a mission of faith to “expose the abuses of the persecution by outfitting the leaders.”

The IRF Summit will feature a “Freedom Shoes” exhibit featuring basketball shoes designed by artists who have been victims of religious persecution from around the world.

Kanter Freedom said that when he was a kid he was always fascinated by the styles of sneakers worn by players; Check the brand, color, comfort and design.

“I wanted to create the shoes I wanted to work with. [There are] Artist [from] around the world who [have] have been repressed by their government because they know it [what] the situation[s] there is. They put all their feelings and emotions into the shoes. And I walked out there, put my shoes on and walked out. They don’t play basketball. And it became a huge trend,” he said.


Fans took note of his shoe game and became curious as to what shoes and themes he would be highlighting with next. He said he plans to make sneakers to pass on profits to communities to increase his impact.

The basketball star told Fox News Digital that he hopes to educate younger generations so they can have a brighter future. He encourages other athletes to use their platforms through social media to speak up for what is right.

“I think it’s important to talk about the right things and not be scared of your endorsement deals or maybe your next paycheck or your contract (and) not worry.”

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