Arcus Taps Church World Service for LGBT Refugee Work in Kenya and South Africa

When it comes to LGBT rights, faith-based organizations aren’t typically the first to come to mind. However, it doesn’t look like Arcus gave Church World Service (CWS) a $125,000 grant for its LGBT expertise or lack thereof, but rather for its expertise in resettling refugees around the world.

CWS has been resettling refugees around the world for decades. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s, however, that the organization established refugee resettlement offices in various parts of the United States, mainly in response to the growing number of refugees coming into the country from Southeast Asia. Having settled nearly 500,000 refugees since its inception, CWS knows a little something about the plight of displaced and stateless persons.

The $125,000 grant to CWS comes out of Arcus’s Social Justice Initiative and supports the training of faith leaders in the matters of LGBTI-identifying immigrants and refugees in Kenya and South Africa—an area of the world for which there is growing concern for the safety of such refugees.

Earlier this year, Ugandan LGBT refugees who traveled to Kenya to escape persecution and human rights violations that would surely result from the anti-homosexuality laws that were enacted in their country in early 2014. They discovered upon their arrival that they did not qualify for asylum as their “perceived ‘lifestyle-option’ is in breach of existing Kenyan laws which prohibit ‘unnatural’ sexual acts.” The group made a desperate plea to the UNHCR to facilitate their asylum and refugee statuses in order to resettle in another country more quickly and without incident.

Related: What's Arcus Doing to Help the World's Most At-Risk LGBTs?

Kenya remains a magnet for people fleeing persecution or escaping war in Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, homosexuality is still punishable by up to 14 years of imprisonment in Kenya. Although no one has reportedly been punished for identifying as LGBT, it still makes this community especially susceptible to violence.

Arcus does not have a specific refugee grantmaking program, but its wide-reaching Social Justice Initiative supports a number of LGBT issues including those related to global religions, international human rights, and U.S. social justice. This work includes supporting organizations working with some of the most maligned LGBT populations in the world. The initiative also places a heavy emphasis on reaching out to faith communities around the world to build cultural acceptance of the LGBT community.