As African nations like Uganda, Ghana, Congo, and others continue their witch hunt against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and perceived LGBT people, there is a growing need for a new underground railroad.
Our community is being hunted, beaten, raped, and murdered for their sexual orientation and gender identity. This is not hyperbole, life could not be worse for our LGBT brothers and sisters in many regions of Africa.
Even those who escape the most horrendous murderers in places like the Congo to more tolerant countries like South Africa, they are left homeless and tortured by their own family members.
24-year old Junior Mayema fled the Congo for South Africa after her mother tried to inject her with gasoline after learning she is a lesbian - but only after an exorcism failed to "rid her of evil spirits." Once in South Africa, she was kicked out of home after home, as her Congolese community discovered her sexual orientation.
Paul Canning covers LGBT refugee issues every day on LGBT Asylum News. His site is filled with stories of those who escape their torturous nations with the hope of discovering a new life in a more tolerant society, only to find a less than friendly immigration system waiting to send them back into the grips of hell.
Despite the challenges they face establishing legal status in their new country, they still have an opportunity at life, like Robert Segwanyi who was spared deportation. Paul Canning led a campaign on Change.org to spare him deportation back to Uganda.
Frankly, if Paul had not done this, Robert would have surely been killed upon his arrival in Uganda. Robert is safe now. He is free in the UK because of the kindness of thousands perfect strangers who signed Paul's petition.
But for every person who gets out there are hundreds left to fend for themselves. John Bosco told me about the life of Ugandan gays in prison. He said:
"There are no beds in prisons in Uganda - no mattresses - just the concrete floor. The prisons are packed. You sleep on one side. You don't have room to turn around," John recounted.
"There are no toilets, there is no running water. There are buckets where everyone eats. No blankets, no curtains. It is hell. It is even worse than the place that they keep pigs," John explained.Life is getting worse for Uganda's gays and lesbians, as an active witch hunt pursues anyone showing any signs of homosexuality, like not marrying or dating women. Who cares if you just have not met the right woman? If you don't have a girlfriend or wife, your life could be in danger.
Uganda could soon pass a law that would give gays and lesbians the death penalty. Few people realize, the law also makes it illegal to be supportive of gay rights, so straight people who are not vehemently anti-gay could also face persecution - leaving Uganda's LGBT people with no where to turn.
LGBT people in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and other Western nations live relatively comfortable lives in comparison. Yes, we have our problems to deal with at home, but we also have the capability of helping our brothers overseas who are facing the worst circumstances imaginable - rape, torture, imprisonment, and death.
During the holocaust, people sheltered Jews and others being persecuted by the Nazis. An underground railroad shepherded some victims to safety. In the United States, an underground railroad moved African Americans from the South to the North where they could live freely and help others escape.
Clearly there is a need for this now. There are literally thousands of people who need to be rescued from oppressive populations, but the task of removing them to safety is not easy. A network of volunteer families, lawyers, corporations, and elected officials must work in concert to ensure the safe harbor of those in danger.
I don't pretend to be an expert on how to make this happen, but the need is there. I see it every day. I guess the first question to ask starts with you. Would you be willing to let a perfect stranger live in your home for a period of time while they negotiate the legal and immigration systems? Would you be willing to be a part of the new underground railroad?