I am horrified by this past weekend’s murderous and hateful attack on LGBT people in Orlando. In the wake of this atrocity, I am joining with our AJWS community to pause, remember and mourn, so we can find the strength to fight another day.
Like many, I feel fortunate to be part of the AJWS community, which supports activists fighting for human rights for LGBT people in countries where they face hate and violence every day. In my travels, I have met dozens of these activists who are building a better future for LGBT people, often in the face of great danger.
Essy, a lesbian woman in Kenya, trains ministers, imams and police officers to treat LGBT Kenyans with respect;
Nicholas, a straight lawyer in Uganda, persuaded his country’s highest court to declare the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Law unconstitutional;
And Dayanara, a Nicaraguan trans woman, overcame a life of hardship and is now organizing other trans women to fight for their right to healthcare, safety, housing and much more.
I know that Essy, Nicholas, Dayanara and countless other activists whom AJWS supports are mourning with us. They are Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and secular. Now, they are standing in solidarity with LGBT people in the U.S., just as we stand in solidarity with them.
I have devoted much of my life to fighting for the dignity and human rights of LGBT people around the world, and this tragedy is only strengthening my resolve to pursue justice.
Since 2005, AJWS has granted $5.6 million to social change organizations promoting the rights of LGBT people in the developing world. In 2016, AJWS granted $1.2 million to support the critical work of 51 organizations promoting the rights of LGBT people in 14 countries and in regional movements for change. With this support, AJWS’s grantees are supporting LGBT people to come out, speak out, collaborate and pursue recognition, inclusion, security and equality.
Robert Bank, currently the executive vice president of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), will be the next president of AJWS, starting on July 1, 2016.