A Drop in the Bucket

I have stayed up until nearly 2 AM this morning, again, watching a movie. That’s three since Friday. I never take the time to sit and watch a movie for myself. I never feel like I can take that much time for myself. But this last month, two months, has been so stressful and I’m not prepared for our long trip in one day and yet I couldn’t keep myself from finishing the movie I started watching. The Big Sick. I didn’t know what it was about- just that I remembered that I had wanted to see it – but it became so very moving, and real that I had to finish it. (The main character is actually a lapsed Muslim, so that was interesting to see on the big screen – you don’t see people questioning their faith often.) I have found it so cathartic to watch other people’s stories play out on the screen and to get out of my own head. And to pretend for a minute that life is normal, when it really hasn’t been. I don’t want to live in a world where people lose their families and are killed for not conforming. Everything I’ve been doing recently to try to help a man in another country escape threats because he left his faith is such a small drop in the bucket. It is so sad. And I’m tired. But at the same time, the internal optimist in me thinks that if more and more of us put a drop in the bucket, that we will be able to fill it.

(I’ve been volunteering with Secular Rescue. Check them out, and consider giving some money to help more people.)

I’m Raising Money for One of My Friends & Other Secular Refugees on GoFundMe

I met Alex almost a year ago, when he commented in despair about being a hidden atheist in Saudi Arabia on one of Richard Dawkins’ tweets. It caught Richard’s eye and he sent me a screen shot. (I had already begun working on my book, Losing Your Life to Save It.) I was able to contact Alex through Twitter (I gave him the name Alex) and we chatted online for months. Eventually he told me that he was saving money and arranging to travel to another country to seek asylum because he lived in constant fear of discovery and his parents were beginning to suspect – sometimes he made mistakes in trying to follow Islamic practices after he stopped believing.

He entered Germany legally but as he declared his intent to seek asylum at that border, he was immediately put into a refugee camp. His phone was damaged at the camp making communication very difficult.

His claim was denied and he is appealing his denial and asking to be permitted to stay in Germany. Because he arrived with money to support himself he was not given the usual government financial support provided to nearly all asylum seekers. His application was denied six months ago – they wanted to send him, a known atheist, back to Saudi Arabia where apostasy is punishable by death and atheism is legally defined as terrorism – because the interviewer did not believe he has left Islam and felt that there was no reason Alex couldn’t simply return and begin to practice Islam again.

He began the long appeal process with the help of Atheist Refugee Relief but has completely depleted the money he brought with him and the camp he has been recently transferred to does not provide food, unlike several of the previous refugee camps he’s been living in.

He hasn’t been able to obtain the documentation (Saudi bank info) he needs to prove to the government that he’s out of money, so the initial determination that he didn’t need financial support can’t be changed yet.

I’ve set up a fundraiser and am splitting the money raised between Alex and the organization that has been able to obtain a lawyer for his appeal, as well as help with some other services.

Hopefully he’ll be able to access the proper bank documentation soon and get government assistance.

Ideally his application will be accepted and he’ll be able to work to support himself – going back to Saudi Arabia is utterly unsafe.

Either way he needs to eat now and this money will be a temporary stopgap measure allowing him to purchase food and other basic living expenses – like transportation to purchase food. It will help reimburse the German charity that’s been helping and free up to help other secular and atheist refugees.

(After a certain point funds raised will be split between three charities.)

Please consider whether you can donate a bit to help Alex and the groups that help secular refugees that often don’t have safe access to religious organizations that provide aid to they coreligionists.

HELP HERE: GoFundMe – Help Alex Eat

P.S. Whatever happens, he’s all in. Alex got this tattoo when he arrived in Germany!

Working on a project with Courtney Heard

Heads up! I’m working with Courtney Heard (Godless Mom on Patheos) on a joint post about helping a population that is in extreme need.

Stay tuned.

The adorable puppy pic at the top of this post is titled Kiwi Eagerly Waiting and was taken by photographer Adam Folliott. It perfectly captures the eagerness of anticipation. His work is beautiful. Make sure to check it out! (On a computer you don’t have to be signed in to Flickr.)