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Help for Secular Refugees

A newly founded association supports fugitive ex-Muslims in Germany

"I felt like I never left Saudi Arabia". With these words, ex-Muslim Rana Ahmad characterized her situation in the Cologne refugee camp where she had been accommodated after her escape from Saudi Arabia. The special problems of ex-Muslims, who fled from political Islam to Germany and have to live with strictly religious Muslims in refugee camps, are still being ignored. In order to address this problem, the association "Atheist Refugee Relief" was founded in Cologne, which was presented to the public last Friday at the international ceremony "10 Years of Ex-Muslims".

With support by the Central Council of Ex-Muslims and the Giordano Bruno Stiftung, the association published a brochure describing the "Challenges and Goals of Atheist Refugee Relief" (available here in German). The brochure describes the association's political demands, but also includes the Rana Ahmad's story, who discovered in Cologne that the danger she fled from had travelled with her in the form of other refugees. Rana was threatened in Germany by strictly religious Muslims - as she had been in Saudi Arabia. She had to fear for her life - as in Saudi Arabia. In her desperation she contacted the Central Council of Ex-Muslims and the gbs regional group in Cologne and decided to go public with her story. In June 2016 a first major article was published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and in September she appeared twice in the sternTV programme.

Rana's commitment brought awareness to large sections of the German population for the first time of how troubling the situation is for non-religious refugees in Germany. In addition, her case was the final impetus for tackling a project that had long been discussed among ex-Muslims and the Giordano Bruno Stiftung: The establishment of an Atheist Refugee Relief.

"Atheist Refugee Relief"

The association "Atheist Refugees Relief" ("Säkulare Flüchtlingshilfe - Atheisten helfen") has since been registered and recognized as a non-profit organisation. Its purpose is to support non-religious refugees through practical help and to improve their living situation through political work. The association's self-conception is based on secular-humanistic, rational, and naturalistic principles ("evolutionary humanism"). It fights for the enforcement of human rights as well as for humanistic ethics. The association's work centres around the fundamental principles of an open society, as presented in Michael Schmidt-Salomon's book "The Limits of Tolerance", i.e. liberality (orientation towards the ideal of freedom), equality (orientation towards the ideal of equality), individuality (orientation towards the individual rather than towards the collective) and secularity (orientation towards worldly forms of norm foundation).

In its practical work, the association is engaged in finding suitable housing for secular refugees, accompanying them to offices, doctors, and lawyers, and giving them access to suitable language and integration courses as well as to therapy. The association also regards enabling the people affected to experience their long-awaited freedom as an elementary part of its work. This freedom often manifests itself in "little things", which are often not taken for granted by many refugees: The possibility to freely choose their own clothes and wear them in public. The freedom to ride a bicycle through the city. To experience what it feels like to dive into the water in a public swimming pool or simply to go to a big movie theatre. Especially for women this is an overwhelming experience of great importance.

Many of the people affected are also politically active beyond that - like Rana Ahmad. They fight for their rights and want to promote education about the situation in their societies of origin. The Atheist Refugee Relief considers this work essential and therefore supports them in travelling to conferences and networking meetings as well as in appearances in the press, radio, and on television.

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