Apostasy Project: Helping people break free from faith
Caspar Melville on what the Apostasy Project can do, and what it can't
Since we launched our funding drive for the Apostasy Project – our initiative to help those who feel trapped in their faith and want to leave – we’ve received a lot of messages of interest and support. Two hundred people have so far donated, and as of writing we are at just over £4,000, which is 20% of our target of £20,000.
Along the many messages of support and offers of help we we also get messages like this:
“I am an ex Muslim living in Kenya. I am in the closet because if I go public I will lose my job, my children, my security and even my life. Would you please advice and assist me.”
They goes on to say that they feel their only option is to look for asylum in a more liberal country, and to ask for our assistance in this.
This raises some important, and difficult, questions for the Apostasy Project.
Firstly what do we say to someone who is in such a situation, who faces severe consequences if they are public about their lack of belief? I discussed this question right at the start of the project with Alom Shaha, who is co-ordinator of the project and an ex-Muslim himself, and he argued that while we believe that everyone should feel free to be honest about their beliefs, and we want to encourage as many people as possible to “come out”, there will be circumstances where this is both unwise and potentially dangerous.
If, for example, a 15-year-old wrote to us saying they wanted to leave the faith against the will of their parents, Alom said that rather than encourage them to simply declare their non-belief he might well advise caution and suggest that the young person work hard, try to gain some independence and only then, when they had some security and self-sufficiency, come out to their family. No matter our commitment to the truth, it is vital that we take a safety-first approach to vulnerable people in dangerous situations.
In regards to issues like asylum or legal or financial assistance we cannot – and will never be able to – offer the kind of help with passports, visas, asylum or the financial support that these people need. We don’t have the resources for this, nor would it be right to set ourselves up as any kind of asylum support service. All we can do in cases like this is offer personal support, and perhaps direct them to somewhere which can help them with their other questions.
But messages like this – and we’ve had many from all over the world – do show how widespread the problem of people being trapped within faith is, and why something like the Apostasy Project is necessary. While there is much we won’t be able to do, we can provide resources, personalised advice and a sense that there are people out there who have gone through the same thing, people who care. We can provide some hope.
So for those who have contacted us asking for specific help with asylum or financial assistance I hope you understand why we can’t do this. But we want you to know that we support you in your plight and that it’s worth persevering.
We still have a long way to go until we can really get going offering this support. We need another £15,000 and though we are in talks to get additional grant funding we won’t succeed without the financial support of concerned individuals. So please donate if you can, and spread the word.
There are people out there, all over the world, who need your help.