Pastor Griffin Gulledge receives the John Leland Religious Liberty Award for advocacy on behalf of persecuted Uyghurs in China


Griffin Gulledge, left, has had an eventful year. First, he and his wife, Rachel, welcomed baby Rosemary into the family. And, on Sunday, he was presented the John Leland Religious Liberty Award for his advocacy on behalf of a persecuted minority group in China.

The Christian Index

MADISON, Ga. – A Georgia Baptist pastor, moved to action after reading newspaper accounts of the atrocities committed against the Uyghur people in China, has been honored by the Southern Baptist Convention for standing up for a minority group a world away.

For courageously advocating for the Uyghur people, Griffin Gulledge, pastor of Madison Baptist Church in Madison, Ga., was presented the John Leland Religious Liberty Award on Sunday.

“We can’t sit quietly by while an entire people group is tortured, raped, beaten, robbed and ultimately murdered until they’re extinguished,” Gulledge said. “We have to speak up. That’s who Baptists are. So, I don’t think I’m doing anything special. I don’t think I’m a hero. I don’t even feel worthy of this award.”

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission delivered the award to Gulledge, 30, in part for drafting a resolution that was adopted unanimously by messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in June condemning China’s treatment of the Uyghurs.

Brent Leatherwood, acting president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said Gulledge’s work positioned the Southern Baptist Convention to be the first denomination to condemn the Chinese Communist Party for “the genocide” of the Uyghur people.”

“Gulledge is a faithful pastor who has advocated for religious liberty across the globe, and we proudly stand alongside him in upholding the dignity of every human life as fellow image bearers of Christ,” Leatherwood said.

The U.S. government, along with Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada  have declared that Beijing’s policies against the Uyghurs amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward has called what has happened to the Uyghurs in Xinjiang “one of the worst human rights crises of our time.”

“The evidence, from a growing number of credible sources — including satellite imagery, survivor testimony and publicly available Chinese Government documents — is of grave concern,” Woodward has said. “The evidence points to a program of repression of specific ethnic groups. Expressions of religion have been criminalized and Uyghur language and culture are discriminated against systematically and at scale.”

China has been accused of confining an estimated 1 million to 3 million people, mostly Uyghurs, in camps in Xinjiang where they have faced forced labor, systematic forced birth control and torture.

The Chinese government denies the allegations, describing the camps as vocational training centers to teach Chinese language, job skills and the law in order to support economic development and combat extremism.

Gulledge said he first learned of the Uyghurs plight in a New York Times article. That article triggered more research and he was astonished by what he learned.

“The more I read, the more horrified I became,” he said.

Gulledge tweeted his findings, starting a viral thread that was ultimately viewed by more than 3 million people. After that, a friend suggested he propose the resolution to the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. The resolution was approved at the denomination's annual meeting in Nashville in June.

Gulledge said his advocacy shows that anyone can speak up for those in need.

“I’m just a normal guy,” he said. “I’m nobody, and I was able to speak out for this group and make a difference. Any Jim, Joe or Sally in our Baptist churches can do the same thing.”

China, Griffin Gulledge, human rights, John Leland Religious Liberty Award, Madison Baptist Church, religious liverty, Uyghur