Former NBA star speaks out against persecution at religious freedom summit

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Former NBA star Enes Kanter Freedom was one of many participants at this week’s International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington DC. He told Fox News Digital he was attending to learn how to better help fight religious persecution.

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

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

American professional basketball player Enes Kanter Freedom meets with defenders at the IRF Summit breakfast. (Courtesy of IRF Summit.)
(Courtesy of IRF Summit)


The former Boston Celtics player legally changed his last name to ‘Freedom’ upon becoming a US citizen last year, and caught the attention of many with his creative sneakers highlighting religious and political persecution around the world entire. His sneakers have included logos for “Free Tibet“, “Free Uyghur” and in reference to this year’s Winter Olympics: “No Beijing 2022”.

Just last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection began implementing provisions of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act that prohibits the importation of forced labor products made in the province. China from Xinjiang to the United States.

In a statement last month, the State Department said it was a priority to address forced labor and other human rights abuses in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and around the world.

A Uyghur woman walks past a mosque in the city of Kuqa in western China's Xinjiang province.  In China's restive western province of Xinjiang, young men from the Uyghur ethnic minority are not allowed to wear beards.  Certain types of scarves, veils and

A Uyghur woman walks past a mosque in the city of Kuqa in western China’s Xinjiang province. In China’s restive western province of Xinjiang, young men from the Uyghur ethnic minority are not allowed to wear beards. Also prohibited are certain types of scarves, veils and “jilbabs” for women, loose and long clothing worn in public. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
(The Associated Press)

“We have taken concrete steps to promote accountability in Xinjiang, including visa restrictions, financial sanctions under Global Magnitsky, export controls, suspension orders and import restrictions, as well as that the issuance of a multi-agency trade advisory on Xinjiang to help U.S. businesses avoid trade that facilitates or profits from human rights abuses, including forced labor,” the statement said.

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

“The most important thing I want to see is that they come here because I know a few people, I know stories of their struggles, and obviously the platform that’s (given) to me is to God (and) she has a huge reach all over the world, so I try to do everything I can to get people’s stories, so I can share them with the world,” he said.


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

Fu is now one of the leading voices of persecuted religious communities in China and launched ChinaAid, a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring international attention to gross human rights abuses in China and to promote religious freedom and the rule of law in China.

<a class=Chinese authorities demolished a church in Sunzhuang in 2020.”/>

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


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

He concluded by noting that he is on a religious mission to “expose the abuses of persecution, equipping leaders.”

A “Freedom Shoes” exhibit is featured at the top of the IRF featuring basketball kicks designed by religiously persecuted artists from around the world.

Kanter Freedom said that as 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] artists [from] around the world who [have] oppressed by their government because they know [what] the situation[s] there is. They put all their feelings and emotions into the shoes. And I was going over there to put the shoes on my feet and go out. They don’t play basketball. And it’s become a huge trend,” he said.


Fans took notice of his shoe game and became curious as to which shoes and what topic he would bring forward next. He said he plans to produce sneakers to give the profits to communities to further his impact.

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

“I think it’s important to talk about the good stuff and not be afraid (and) not worry about your sponsorship deals or maybe your next salary or your contract.”