LGBT Youth and Muslim Youth: An Unlikely Bond

There’s been a lot in the news in the wake of Orlando about the shared experiences of the LGBT community and the Muslim community. Both are, sadly, the targets of bigotry and hate.

As I write this, the song “What the World Needs Now (is Love Sweet Love)” rose to the top of the iTunes chart as the most downloaded song of the day – as a tribute to Orlando. And we at GO Campaign could not agree more. Though we might suggest a sequel song that adds “Education and Emotional Support” to the chorus.

In Watts, a historically challenging neighborhood in Los Angeles, we partner with our Local Hero Marianne Diaz who offers weekly group therapy sessions for LGBT youth in a neighborhood where it is still taboo to be gay. Their session on June 15th was focused on helping the youth process their emotions regarding the shooting in Orlando. At the session, the youth were able to share their feelings. They are angry and frustrated. And they are afraid. But Marianne reports that it was a productive session with the youth leaving determined that they are not going to let this act of terror stop their personal progress.

We also partner with California Local Heroes Jessica Weissbuch and Kayla Ryan whose mission is to help LGBT youth foster meaningful relationships with peers and develop their 21st century skills so they can become leaders in their community. GO Campaign funds will be used to support the activities taking place during Brave Trails’ 2-week summer camp. At camp, youth can connect with peers who understand what they are going through, have fun, build their confidence, and be supported as they come to accept and love themselves. Since Orlando, Jessica and Kayla have been inundated with calls, emails, and messages from youth currently signed up to participate in their summer camp program and their families. The camp is scheduled to take place in two weeks and 80 youth are expected to participate. Many youth are nervous and afraid. Kids who participated in camp last year also expressed feelings of yearning for the comfort of camp and the safe, positive environment created there which gives them the freedom to be themselves.

In another corner of the world, Muslim youth are facing abuse on a daily basis. In Senegal, there are an estimated 50,000 children loitering on the streets begging. These children, known as talibé, are sent by their parents to daaras (religious schools teaching the Quran). While there they are expected to bring back money to their teacher every day. If they don’t, they can be subject to beatings or forced to sleep on the street. GO Campaign was first introduced to the plight of the talibé in March 2014 when we partnered with our Local Hero Issa Kouyaté to build an emergency shelter where talibé in crisis can live until they can return home or a permanent living situation can be arranged. The project was successfully completed and today the shelter is a place of refuge for these children. At the center, children receive medical care, food, education, clothes, emotional support, hygiene services, and most of all, hope. Due to the success of this first collaboration, GO Campaign approved a second grant to support a vocational training agriculture program so the talibé can learn marketable skills and find employment. Their plight was recently highlighted in this article.

GO Campaign is proud to support this project for Muslim youth, along with a peace-building program for Muslim youth in the West Bank, a computer program for Muslim girls in Pakistan, vocational training for a Muslim ethnic minority in Cambodia, and an orphan care program that promotes tolerance between Muslims and Catholics in a part of Tanzania where religious tensions run high.

Our thoughts go out to the families and loved ones of the Orlando victims, and to all who are suffering at the hands of ignorance and intolerance. We remain committed to helping LGBT youth, Muslim youth, and children everywhere grow up in a world that values them and teaches them to value others equally.

No not just for some, but for everyone….