05/26/2015 01:01 EDT | Updated 05/26/2016 05:59 EDT

This Gay Palestinian Refugee Needs Our Help

John Calvin is gay. With Edmonton Pride on the way in June, he should be excited about the festivities. Instead, he is counting the days of his precious life.

Calvin is a refugee from Palestine, who may soon be deported for being born into a family with ties to Hamas. As in the case of Omar Khadr, the details of his arduous life seem irrelevant for the Canadian authorities.

Calvin grew up in a Muslim household that idolizes Hamas. He was indoctrinated to follow that path. Yet, he chose to abandon it.

He ran away from home and later on converted to Christianity. If the challenges of being a "gay apostate" were not enough, he also had to contend with sexual abuse by a fellow Palestinian inmate in an Israeli prison.

Calvin has openly asserted his truth on his sexuality and faith. As such, if deported, he faces imminent extra-judicial murder from his own family and people.


With permission from John Calvin, who is volunteering here at former Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman's campaign office.

Online comments on his story reveal that people are quick to judge and slow to forgive. Some are content in perpetuating Islamophobic tropes; others use the opportunity to further their cause of "religion bashing."

While such online commenters get embroiled in silly debates that draw out the worst in them, Calvin's precious life hangs by the noose.

One can only wonder how such smug commenters would have measured if placed in Calvin's shoes.

Many of us enjoy musicals like Les Miserables. Yet, we fail to recognize the Jean Val Jeans in our own time. We are unable to see past our fears. Indeed, it takes wisdom and courage to follow through the path of the Bishop who redeems Jean Val Jean with his candlesticks.

Canadian authorities are perhaps concerned about the threats to public safety from a skinny young gay man, who has found meaning in following Christ. They were equally concerned at the release of Omar Khadr, who despite indoctrination, a decade of imprisonment and torture as a child, does not harbour any bitterness for all he has experienced.

If these two young men are not walking the path of forgiveness and peace, then I am not sure, who is.

While Khadr found high-profile support in the relentless lawyer, Dennis Edney, Calvin stands alone. His support group consists of a few Christians, who are scrounging for meagre resources to come to his aid.

Calvin provides us all with an opportunity to realize our potential as human beings.

His following the path of Christ allows even the most conservative of Christians to speak up for him to send the message that all life is sacred, even that of a gay person.

His being a "gay apostate" allows Muslims to stand up for him to vehemently reject the medieval punishments for sexuality and apostasy.

His case allows militant atheists to go beyond "religion bashing" and armchair negativity to actually work with a handful of Christians, who are relentlessly catching at straws to help him.

His being an innocent human being, affords every human being an opportunity to remind the Canadian government that a democracy protects the most vulnerable and marginalized.

Canadians have the power to help Calvin by signing the online petition for him, calling Steven Blaney, the Minister of Public Safety, calling their MPs, or through any other possible civic discourse.

Fear only has the power to strip the Canadian fabric of life. It is in standing up for the vulnerable that we uphold Canadian values.

Do we as Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists and everyone else abandon John Calvin? Or do we tell the authorities that we are only safe as the most vulnerable amongst us?

The choice is ours.


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