What the Initiative Needs…

The Faith-Based LGBT Asylum Initiative is just getting started. We are talking with a few people who have been working in relative isolation and need to find a way to build connections. Some initial thoughts about resources we need include:

  • Steering Committee Members who can work on things like communications, fundraising, coalition building, organizational development.
  • People who can take some leadership around networking
    • between congregations already working with transgender and/or same-gender-loving asylum seekers
    • among reputable lawyers working on LGBT asylum issues/cases
    • among LGBT asylum seekers and LGBT asylees
    • outreach to other potential resource people (LGBT networks, faith-based networks, immigration networks, etc)
  • People who are able to collaborate and think strategically about…
    • how to build awareness in faith communities about LGBT asylum seekers
    • how to equip congregations to more easily/effectively support LGBT asylum seekers
    • how to help activists and lawyers feel better able to find congregations that may be open to supporting LGBT asylum seekers
  • To hear from you, congregations, lawyers, activists, asylees — especially if you are already working in this area.
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Meet up with us and ORAM at Creating Change!

Creating Change (http://creatingchange.org/) in Baltimore, MD, January 25-28, 2012, will be a great opportunity to connect with Max, Chris, and others who are thinking about mobilizing faith-based support for LGBT Asylum and Refugee concerns. Max is now working with ORAM  – Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration, which specializes in LGBT concerns.

Workshop details:

Engaging LGBTI & Faith-Based Communities to Assist LGBTI Refugees Friday, January 27, 2012 – Session 4 (4:45-6.15 pm)
Format: 90 Minute Workshop – All Audiences
Presenters: Neil Grungas, Cara Hughes and Max Niedzwiecki

Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of LGBTI people are persecuted by their governments, communities and their own families. Those who make it to safety face difficult integration challenges. ORAM – Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration – will share its rich experience partnering with faith-based and LGBTI community allies to resettle these vulnerable refugees in the U.S. Learn how saving the most vulnerable among us can infuse our community with new strength and purpose.

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About LGBT Asylum Seekers

Transgender and same-gender-loving (lesbian, gay, bisexual) asylum seekers who reach the U.S. are typically traumatized, unable to access support from their country(wo)men in the U.S., and unable to work, while their asylum case is being heard.

Like other asylum seekers, transgender and same-gender-loving asylum seekers are not permitted to work during their legal process. Therefore, they do not have the means to support themselves.  While they pursue asylum, they struggle to meet basic needs, such as  housing, food, clothing, transportation, and services (faith communities, health care, psychological care).

They often arrive in the U.S. with nothing but the clothes on their backs having used all of their resources getting here. Moreover, they remain particularly isolated because frequently they cannot turn to people from their own country in the U.S. for assistance or support as it is their fellow countrymen from whom they are fleeing.

Often they leave their homeland with  many messages of religious condemnation that need to be sorted out, in addition to issues of legal status and basic needs.

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About the NEW Sanctuary Movement

On January 29, 2007 representatives from 18 cities, 12 religious traditions and 7 denominational and interdenominational organizations joined together to listen to the experience of immigrant families fighting deportation, and to strategize how to protect parents and children from being torn apart until there is just comprehensive immigration reform.

The New Sanctuary Movement was birthed that weekend with the goal of protecting immigrant families from unjust deportation, affirming and making visible these families as children of God and awakening the moral imagination of the country through prayer and witness. As an act of public witness, the New Sanctuary Movement enables congregations to publicly provide hospitality and protection to a limited number of immigrant families whose legal cases clearly reveal the contradictions and moral injustice of our current immigration system while working to support legislation that would change their situation.

New Sanctuary Movement congregations are not necessarily LGBT-friendly or experienced with LGBT issues — so they may not be well equipped to deal with the unique challenges of transgender and same-gender-loving asylum seekers.

Meanwhile, the needs of immigrant families are also slightly different than those of asylum seekers.  All asylum seekers are immigrants — but many immigrants are not asylum seekers.  So, New Sanctuary congregations may be aligned with immigrant rights without necessarily being experienced at supporting asylum seekers.

Source: The New Sanctuary Movement

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About the Sanctuary Movement (1980s)

In the early 1980’s, thousands of Central American refugees poured into the United States, fleeing life-threatening repression and extensive human rights violations by their governments.

At the time, federal immigration policy would have denied the majority political asylum simply because their governments were allies of the U.S. Many of these refugees had actively participated in the liberation theology movement and naturally sought protection from congregations.

Many Catholic, Protestant and Jewish congregations and temples responded positively — offering these refugees social services and advocacy support as well as engaging actively in efforts to change federal immigration policy. These congregations, united under the banner of the Sanctuary Movement, also pledged that they would not reveal the identities of these refugees, even if they were arrested or jailed for doing so.

The Sanctuary Movement was ultimately successful both in changing national policy and in protecting tens of thousands of individuals and families, enabling them to start a new life in the U.S.

Source: The New Sanctuary Movement

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About LGBT-friendly Congregations

There are hundreds of LGBT-friendly congregations around the world.  The Institute for Welcoming Resources (a mult-faith resource affiliated with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) maintains a directory of congregations.

In some faith traditions, a congregation may face serious sanctions, if it takes a public stand in support of LGBT issues (e.g. Roman Catholic congregations). So there are also other congregations that may be known to be LGBT-friendly, but are not affiliated in a way that allows them to be listed in the directory above.

They are many “flavors” of faith communities that support LGBT people, including Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, Baptists, Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, and much more. Some have been advocating for LGBT issues since the 1970s, 80s, or 90s and have decades of experience.  Others are relatively new to gay and lesbian concerns. Many are much less familiar with transgender concerns.

These congregations also vary politically. Some may have become LGBT-affirming because of an experience with a particular child or family who is a part of their community.  Others may have a wide-ranging commitment to liberal or progressive political concerns that includes but is not limited to LGBT issues.

Source: Text provided by the Interfaith Working Group.

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LGBT Struggles Globally

The violence resulting from homophobia and anti-homosexuality laws in many countries in the world is rampant. These laws also impact transgender people who are often misunderstood to be gay or lesbian.

Did you know that…

  • There are laws against homosexuality in 87 countries around the world?
  • In 72 countries, you could be imprisoned if you are part of the LGBT community?
  • In 7 of those countries, the punishment is the death penalty?
  • In some of those countries “corrective rape” is common and sometimes committed by government officials?

Source: The LGBT Asylum Project website

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