在港同志基督徒難民的故事 Story of a Gay Christian Refugee：Mr. J
（感謝侯詠釗弟兄協助此訪問的英語翻譯。Thank you Alan Hau for the English translated version of this interview.）
Mr. J is a refugee from Egypt and a Christian. He also identifies as a gay man, which is one of the main reasons why he must flee from his homeland. He dearly misses his family and country, but at the same time, he knows he cannot survive in that environment. Homosexuality is a crime in Egypt masked under the guise of antiquated “debauchery” laws. The laws are regularly enforced and those punished can be sent to prison for 15 to 20 years. Cruel to members of the LGBTI community, John had no choice but to leave the conservative Islamic country for his safety.
COMING OUT AND CONVERSION THERAPY
Mr. J現年33歲，他說早在自己7歲時已發現到自己非常喜歡跳舞，卻不喜歡女生，他與大部分同齡男生很不同，他們喜歡冒險和足球，自己卻喜歡音樂和舞蹈。在香港地擁有與別不同的興趣可能沒有問題，但在埃及地卻要受到很多的校園欺凌，Mr. J便因而在中學內受盡同學的欺凌，不只是在言語上的侮辱，更包括肢體上的暴力，他在高中時就曾因自己的一段同性戀愛關係在校內被公開而被毒打欺凌，可見性小眾在埃及人的群體中是如此不被接納。
Mr. J is 33 years old, but deep down he knew he is special when he was 7. Instead of playing football and contact sports, he loves music and dance. Having a wide range of hobbies may not be a big deal in Hong Kong, but he was no stranger to being bullied in school. His love for the arts drew not only verbal abuse from his classmates but physical ones too. When he was in high school, his romantic relationship with another boy was discovered. Outed publicly, he was humiliated and beaten physically by his peers. Life as a sexual minority in Egypt is rarely a joyful one and the challenges did not end here.
Right about this time, Mr. J was 16 and he came out to his father. His father, a conservative Muslim, furiously beat him into submission. No one else in the family stood on Mr. J’s side. There was no acceptance and zero tolerance for Mr. J’s identity and they swiftly sent him to a local clinic to have his sexual orientation changed through the notorious and inhumane treatment of “conversion therapy”.
Mr. J被強制送到診所接受兩年的治療，其中包括有「電療」，指的是診所職員會將通了電的電線貼在他頭部太陽穴的位置上，然後嘗試透過強勁的電流來「醫治」他的同性戀傾向；另外還有「水療」，指的是他們會把他的全身強行塞進倒滿冰粒的大水桶中，透過寒冷刺骨的感受將他的同性戀傾向驅走。在接受了慘無人道的「拗直」治療後，Mr. J深知自己的同性性傾向根本沒有被改變，但假若他將事實說出來的話，他便再需要回到診所被折磨得不似人形，所以他在離開診所時沒說過半句話，讓父母以為他已完全「康復」，就回復以往對他的態度，不再罵他或打他。
Thus begins the two horrible years of treatment at this so-called clinic. Electroshock was administered regularly with electrodes attached to his temples. The strength of the shock was meant to condition his brain to associate homosexual thoughts with pain. A twisted form of cryotherapy was also used on him where clinicians would submerge him into a bucket of extremely cold iced-water. The quack doctor was trying to illicit a perverted pavlovian response from Mr. J; feel the torture every time he thinks romantically of a man. Mr. J noticed not only was the treatment not working at all, but his life was in grave danger. His mind was being whittled down, little by little. With his dignity and humanity stripped away, it was only a matter of time before his mind snaps and suicide becomes his only escape. Mr. J didn’t want to go to the clinic anymore, but neither did he want to be beaten at home. The harrowing experience left its mark on his psyche and when he left the clinic he was completely silent. Then he spoke and told an elaborate lie to his parents to pretend he is cured.
BECOMING A CHRISTIAN AND LEAVING HOME
Mr. J’s identity as a Christian is almost as troubling as being gay. He could never identify with Islam personally because it wasn’t his choice. It was his family’s choice. He was introduced to Jesus by his friend in university and in His voice he found solace and sanctuary. A voice that accepts him for who he is and a spirit that walks with him no matter how difficult the challenges ahead may be. It is a voice he has followed for nine years and never looked back. When he decided to become a follower of Jesus, he was denied his home by his family. He was 24 and homeless. Luckily, a pastor from a Coptic church came to his aid. Mr. J survived.
The living conditions in Egypt is far too dangerous for a gay Christian, Mr. J decided to leave. He escaped to several countries around the middle east and then to Hong Kong about 2 years ago. He settled at the refugee shelters in Nam Cheong. Finally, he found a place without immediate danger. Speaking of his family, Mr. J wouldn’t dare to contact them although he misses them dearly. His family is keen to enforce Sharia law and he will be executed upon return. It has been more than 9 years since his last contact with them. Looking back, he misses Egypt, a once self-sufficient country with endless opportunities and economic potential. He sighs at the current state of the country.
ADRIFT IN AN UNFAMILIAR CITY
Although Hong Kong has shelters for refugees and asylum seekers, it is far from a refugee-friendly city. The relief from the government is economically unsustainable for many refugees. The tight monthly budget coupled with the fact that they are not allowed to work legally makes life unbearable.
Mr. J is an openly gay man in the city and luckily he is in touch with local LGBTI advocacy groups. He is free to express his identity but given his different upbringing, cultural background and language barriers he finds himself an outcast wherever he goes. It takes an enormous effort for a local to know him and understand him as a person, but he never regrets his decision to come to Hong Kong. After all, he decided to come here by his own free will, in search of a safe haven where he is not persecuted for his identity and desires. In the city, he has made friends and allies along the way and life isn’t always bleak.
There is also a small Egyptian community in Hong Kong but they have rejected Mr. J on account of his sexual identity. It is his dream to be in a relationship with another Egyptian gentleman. That is a tall order in Egypt given the pervasive conservatism, let alone Hong Kong. Sexual invitations come and go, but it does get lonely as time passes. He hopes to find his other half in a relationship built on trust and love. More than casual flings, he dreams of a true companion he can share his life with.
Mr. J’s journey in Hong Kong is met with frustration here and there, but he is nevertheless thankful to be in touch with the inclusive churches in Hong Kong that are kind to the refugee and LGBTI communities. Kowloon Union Church (KUC) have been holding cookouts for refugees, allowing him to meet other souls facing the same challenges in the city. Blessed Ministry Community Church (BMCC), as an LGBTI affirming church, has been providing live English translation for services. In these sanctuaries, he can celebrate his life as he would a child– dancing in freedom and singing in joy to praise God.
MY CHRISTIAN FAITH
談到他的基督教信仰，Mr. J認為在基督教中「接受自己」永遠是最重要的一門功課，因為所有人的本相本來就是上主的獨特創造，其中當然包括同性戀傾向，要拋開一切的謊言和欺騙來相信上主愛同志，其實也是不容易做到的事情。Mr. J繼續說，成為基督徒這決定即表示自己的生命不再只屬於個人的，而是要將生命奉獻給耶穌，奉獻給有需要的、被邊緣的小眾群體。談及「愛與正義」，他很斬釘截鐵地說正義必須先於愛來出現，他舉了一個例子是當有人飢餓時，他最需要的是別人給予他食物還是為他禱告呢？兩個行動的動機都可以是因為愛，但給予食物更是因為見到背後不公義的處境而選擇伸張公義，讓飢餓的先得到溫飽。所以若沒有正義，真正的愛都不會存在。
On the topic of Christian faith, Mr. J views self-acceptance as the most important practice. All life on earth is part of God’s unique creation, including our diversity in sexual orientation, among other attributes. To dispel all the lies in homophobia and hate-filled doctrines in the public and arrive at the final truth that God loves LGBTI members, is a difficult task. To be a follower of Christ, he continues, is a decision to finally let go of his personal ego. His life is no longer his own, he gives it all to Jesus. He gives it all to those Jesus loves and cares about– those who are rejected by the world, the fringe community and the weakest ones longing for help.
Speaking of love and justice, with conviction, he points out that fundamental justice must be in place before love can thrive. Justice and love cannot substitute for each other. When a hungry person is on the verge of death, he asks, does he need others to give him food or a heartfelt prayer? Both actions may be seen as an expression of love, but those who offer food see the economic injustice that a simple prayer cannot cure. Exact your sense of justice and nourish the poor man! Without justice, love loses its purpose and authenticity.
About the church, he thinks many conservative denominations are denying the sexual minority, whether or not he is in Egypt or Hong Kong. He has heard countless times from clergymen that homosexuals must go to hell. However, when he read the bible, he empathized with Jesus; born into a world where your community hates you. Certain antisemitic Christians despise the Jews for having a helping hand in Jesus’ death, but Jesus himself is also Jewish, Mr. J argued. Jesus’ conflict of identity never stopped him from loving the Jews and LGBTI members as well. In fact, He loves everyone just as much. Casting judgment and controlling others out of their fear of God is not a part of his faith. The message of love is more enduring and powerful for those under oppression. As a Christian, that is the gospel he wants the world to hear.
Mr. J wants everyone to know that even though a refugee’s life is safer than Egypt, it is not a solution for many of them when they cannot work for a sustainable wage. It is not their wish to be taking donations and begging for aid from Hong Kong citizens. Many of them are ready and willing to work when given the chance. He hopes Hong Kongers can fight for their right to work, so they can earn a living and survive with dignity.
你願意幫助Mr. J在加拿大順利安頓嗎？一群有心的基督徒朋友組成了一個名為「On J’s Side」的組織，希望協助Mr. J籌得在溫哥華生活的費用，以及他用以協助其他正在尋求庇護的難民的費用。若你有感動出一分力幫助Mr. J，歡迎你到此GoFundMe網站捐款支持他。
“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Please help raise $30,826 for Mr. J’s settlement in Vancouver! His goal is to build a better life in Canada and pay the amount forward to help other asylum seekers. He has been through many mental and physical hardships, but he is not broken, and he wants to be the hope and light for others who have suffered the same oppression. If you are willing to show you support for Mr. J, please visit this GoFundMe website.
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