“If they find out I’m an atheist, they might kill me.”
These are words I never thought would be strung together six years ago. I started at this as a naive blogger, having been raised atheist in a secular part of the world. It never so much as crossed my mind someone could be killed for not believing something. You know this about me already. I say it more often than Trump says tremendous.
The thing is, I say it so much because it haunts me. I grew up surrounded by love and acceptance, and people who didn’t believe in any gods just like me. I was nurtured into adulthood by people who saw the value in my character and didn’t judge me based on antiquated beliefs. Just the mere idea that anyone could feel the slightest modicum of anger because you don’t share their beliefs is still and always will be beyond all comprehension. It still, six years into my atheist activism, blows my goddamned, hellbound mind.
People die because they are just like me. People die because they don’t believe the tales in a book. People die for not sharing the same beliefs as everyone else around them. I feel like I say this so much it doesn’t even pack a punch anymore.
This is the problem. This is a huge problem. As atheist activists, this is a problem that hangs over us every day.
We know this is a problem, but what are the solutions?
The solutions to this massive issue are so complicated. Just moving people from one place to another presents myriad issues that I had never even considered before getting into activism. For instance, paying to help someone relocate can open you up to human trafficking violations. The law is a concern on top of refugee applications and rules, asylum applications, immigration rules, visa conditions. All of these issues are also different for each nation, and familiarizing yourself with the intricacies of immigration law in languages you don’t speak is an absolute nightmare.
The sad truth is, often, we cannot move an atheist in danger. Relocation is sometimes out of the question even more now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
So, how do we help? How can we help? What can we do for the atheist who is in danger? Several organizations have had different approaches.
Nigerian Humanists headed by Mubarak Bala (who is still missing) has one strategy. They have approached the problem by setting up safe houses in Nigeria. Apostates who find themselves fearing for their lives can have access to a place to hide from fundamentalist vigilante mobs.
Ateizm Dernegi, an atheist group in Turkey, has launched ARAP or Atheist Refugee Assistance Program. ARAP hopes to hire people who speak Arabic, Persian, Turkish and English to help atheists navigate refugee and asylum applications.
Groups like Secular Rescue have paid to move people from one town to another. Even though the new location harbours just as much hatred towards apostates as the last, this offers the atheist a chance at starting fresh and hiding their nonreligious views.
Most of the time, however, the best we can do is moral support. Now, that doesn’t sound like much, but it is. This manifests in many ways, but includes access to counselors and life coaches who are actively working to lower the rate of suicide and self-destructive behaviour amongst apostates trying to cope with losing everything. This is precisely what Free Hearts, Free Minds has been doing since it was established a couple of years ago.
Yasmine Mohammed is a prolific activist, standing up for the rights of ex-Muslims all over the world. She started Free Hearts, Free Minds for the same reason I began International Association of Atheists with my co-founders: it’s hard to get the pleas for help every day and not be able to offer any assistance.
What Free Hearts, Free Minds does is give the subject access to six sessions with a life coach. With these sessions, they acquire tools to cope with everything life is unfairly throwing at them, now that they no longer fit in with everyone around them. This reduces depression, anxiety and the threat of suicide while other organizations can work to get the subject away from the source of the danger they face.
In my opinion, this service is essential. This service is saving lives. That’s why my organization has partnered up with Free Hearts, Free Minds to raise operating funds for these services. A good life coach isn’t free. A qualified counselor is not free. We need your help to enable this organization to reach more at-risk people in Muslim-majority countries.
I am asking you to pitch in for this worthy cause. Even a dollar will help us reach our goal. You can donate here.
I want to know what solutions you have to deal with this problem? Do you think counseling and life coaching are valuable services to offer apostates in Muslim-majority countries? Let me know in the comments!
I’m writing a book addressing the many reasons believers distrust atheists. I’m around 40,000 words in! If you want to help me get it done, you can support me by donating here or becoming a patron here.