Years ago I studied with Professor John McKnight who teaches community. He told a story about being appointed by President Kennedy in 1962, to mainstream the black people of Detroit into the Ford Motor Company as highly paid workers. The Ford Family won a Human Rights award from the NAACP for their community partnership with black community leaders. McKnight realized after that experience, that he had been a modern day abolitionist standing with black American citizens with a long history of mistreatment.
After hearing about the homophobic violence and the mistreatment of gay Iranian males, and meeting Malek (a gay refugee resettled in Winnipeg) over dim sum, I began the process of starting a group of five. The group has become, a group of about 12 people formally and informally. We have meet a gay couple in Iran who are prepared to take the long difficult journey to resettle in Turkey and then to live in Winnipeg. We’ve heard their fears of being arrested and the ongoing stress of living in Iran as closeted gay citizens with a potential death sentence that can occur at anytime.
Among ourselves we have secured about $12,000 for resettlement expenses, spoken to a international human rights lawyer on their behalf, have enough furniture promised to outfit a home for them, and people continue to offer assistance as needed after hearing their stories. The group will offically begin in November 2012 and then the Iranian couple can ask our government for sanctuary on humantarian and compassionate grounds and come to Winnipeg to begin a new life.
This experience is the most deeply fulfilling meaningful volunteer cause of my life. Reaching out to that gay couple in Iran and putting the pieces in place for their sanctuary is both humbling and the most direct way to assist fellow gay citizens. I’m not sure who is more excited, them or us, but they have promised to make Iranian potatoes/spaghetti and almond/raisin/ honey pastries to celebrate with the champagne after arriving in Canada.