Quakers Form Underground Railroad for Gay Ugandans

Bravo to a group of Quakers in Olympia, Washington who have established a new underground railroad to get gay Ugandans out of that country to escape the brutal persecution there after the passage of a new law that includes life in prison just for being gay.

This group, based in Olympia, Wash., calls its project the Friends New Underground Railroad (FNUR) because it sees itself as following in the footsteps of the Quakers who helped bring slaves out of the American South before the Civil War. Working with fewer than 10 Ugandan “conductors,” they report having funded passage out of the country for 107 people with grants ranging from $52-$185. The refugees mostly travel in small groups on back roads and make their way to safe houses in neighboring countries. FNUR says they know of at least 12 people who have gone on to third countries like South Africa and Sweden, and they have received unconfirmed reports that around 30 have reached Europe.

The security precautions they say they take makes their work impossible to verify. The identities and locations of the conductors are kept secret even from one another. FNUR won’t identify any of the people they’ve evacuated because they say they don’t yet feel secure in their new location, though they say they financed the escape of 22 students in a Catholic seminary accused of homosexuality in the eastern town of Jinja whose case made headlines abroad. They won’t say which countries people escape to, who aids them once they exit Uganda, or how those who have gone onto Europe have secured the visas that other refugees can spend years waiting for because they fear the escape routes being shut off. One of the three co-organizers — the only one of the group with experience in international relief work — won’t be publicly identified by his real name, saying “we don’t want to put anybody in danger.” Instead he goes by Levi Coffin II, adopting the name of one of the Quakers who was a leader in the original Underground Railroad.

“We got into this because we were asked,” Coffin said in a phone interview from Washington state. The person who became Conductor Number One was a Ugandan acquaintance who asked for support when a group of LGBT people asked him to help get them out of the country. “Quakers have a long tradition of this kind of work… This is work that we were both literally and figuratively called to do.”

Now we need this on a huge scale. And it would help a lot if the Obama administration would announce that it will automatically grant refugee status to anyone who gets to an American embassy (and that goes for Russia and Nigeria as well).

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About Ed Brayton

After spending several years touring the country as a stand up comedian, Ed Brayton tired of explaining his jokes to small groups of dazed illiterates and turned to writing as the most common outlet for the voices in his head. He has appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show and the Thom Hartmann Show, and is almost certain that he is the only person ever to make fun of Chuck Norris on C-SPAN.

  • D. C. Sessions

    “Society of Friends.”

    Don’t see that kind of honest naming much any more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/set.v.kouwenhoven Set Kouwenhoven

    Dammit, now I’m tearing up at work.

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    GO QUAKERS!!!

    Good for them and hope it works.

    Also hope things there change ASAP. Get with the 21st Century already fools!

    it would help a lot if the Obama administration would announce that it will automatically grant refugee status to anyone who gets to an American embassy (and that goes for Russia and Nigeria as well).

    Yes, yes it would.

    Please Obama, please!

  • http://theophontes.deviantart.com/ theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    automatically grant refugee status to anyone who gets to an American embassy

    Also: Automatically grant refugee status to anyone who gets to an South African embassy…

    Unlike America, we are constitutionally obliged to help gay people live with the respect and protection of the state, a right that ALL citizens enjoy. I would like to see these rights expanded well beyond our borders.

    Lets make no bones about it: every civilised country should offer at least this much.

  • http://theophontes.deviantart.com/ theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ StevoR

    Let me remind you that this goes for ALL people. Not your fucking chosen people only. Your precious “Amerikkka” should start letting Palestinians escape the prison Israel has built around them too.

  • colnago80

    Re theophontes @ #5

    Yeah, the Palestinians should be free to escape to Syria and Iraq.

  • Artor

    I have a generally low opinion of Xians, but every Quaker I’ve met has been an exceptional example of humanity. If only more Xians could be like the Friends…

  • http://theophontes.deviantart.com/ theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ colagno80

    the Palestinians

    Are genetically Jewish. Unlike the Jews. Mebbee, YHWH can sort His shit out before the commencement of bombing operations?

  • colnago80

    Re theophontes @ #8

    What the fuckke does that mean? You are completely full of shitte.

  • magistramarla

    Perhaps the Quakers could help the child refugees, too?

  • John Pieret

    In Modus Mode:

    SEE! THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SET OUT TO BE A CHRISTIAN BY READING WHAT CHRIST SAID INSTEAD OF YAHWEH IN THE OLD TESTAMENT!!!

  • Pierce R. Butler

    … they financed the escape of 22 students in a Catholic seminary accused of homosexuality … whose case made headlines abroad.

    Not, evidently, in any paper read by “the Good Pope™”, who seems to be too busy doing photo ops to take care of his so-called flock.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    John Pieret “In Modus Mode: SEE! THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SET OUT TO BE A CHRISTIAN BY READING WHAT CHRIST SAID INSTEAD OF YAHWEH IN THE OLD TESTAMENT!!!”

    THAT DOESNT SOUND LIKE SOMETHIGN ID SAY AT ALL!!! EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT THEY SHOULD HAVE MADE AN UNDERGROUND RAILROAD NOT TO BRING THEIRS HERE BUT TO SHIP “OUR” GAYHOMOEXUALS THERE!!! I DID SOME CHECKING AND US TRUE CHRISTIANS CAN GET A GOOD DEAL ON USED BOXCARS FROM GERMANY AND EVERYTHING!!!

  • Trebuchet

    Meanwhile, a Quaker college in Portland has claimed a religious exemption to be able to discriminate against a transgender student.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2014/07/the-law-includes-a-broad-exemption/

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Trebuchet “Meanwhile, a Quaker college in Portland has claimed a religious exemption to be able to discriminate against a transgender student.”

    Small world. I got my Bachelor’s there, in Computer Science. Mostly for the irony.

  • John Pieret

    Trebuchet:

    That university has announced a new policy which is incrementally better in that it will open single sex housing to transgender students who have had gender reassignment surgery.

    http://www.universityherald.com/articles/10474/20140718/george-fox-university-to-revise-policy-on-transgender-students-housing.htm

  • http://twitter.com/tonysidaway Tony Sidaway

    In this dark world, I tend to cry tears of joy when I see people doing great work. Quakers make me cry more often than most. Not perfect, but so often finding a very human way to make things just a little bit better.

  • John Pieret

    Tony Sidaway”

    Not perfect, but so often finding a very human way to make things just a little bit better.

    May I add a rousing AMEN!?

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    Silly Quakers.

    The U.S. and other countries are just trying to be “balanced” and the balancing consists of weighing the rights of what, some number of thousands of people who will be brutalized and murdered* against the firmly held religious convictions of the people who control allathat sweet, sweet crude?

    Wuddya, fuckn’ nuts?

    * They’re all black, anyway, right? Amirite?


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