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WATCH: Gay Christian Palestinian Fears Death If Deported

WATCH: Gay Christian Palestinian Fears Death If Deported


The young man has sought refugee status in Canada, where he has been living on a student visa, but authorities have denied it to his family's ties to Hamas.

A gay Palestinian man living in Canada is facing deportation because of his family's ties to the terrorist group Hamas, even though he has renounced the group -- and he says he expects to be killed if he is returned to his home.

The 24-year-old has recently told his story to several media outlets, including The Times of Israel and CNN Money. The man, who has adopted the name John Calvin to keep his identity confidential, was born into one of the leading families of Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. He grew up in the region known as the West Bank, the Palestinian territories bordering Israel.

In his teens, he said, he began to question Hamas's anti-Semitism and to explore religions other than Islam, the faith in which he was raised. A key factor was time he spent in an Israeli jail for crossing the border illegally. While he was in the jail, "another man, a Palestinian man, hurt me in a way I could never have imagined, in a way that just isn't talked about in our society," he wrote in a recent Times of Israel blog post. "If that was unexpected, that was nothing compared to what came next. The Israelis who worked in the prison -- 'the Jews' -- looked after me and took care of me, making sure the story never got out to those who would use it against me. The Palestinians I had been taught to die for had hurt and abandoned me while the Israelis I had been taught to kill acted with compassion and helped me heal."

The experience led him to convert to Christianity, Calvin wrote. When his father found out about his planned conversion, he plotted to have Calvin killed to protect the family's honor, the young man said. After his mother revealed the plot to him, he fled to Canada, where he received a student visa in 2011. He lives in Edmonton, and there he came to terms with being gay, another factor that would put his life in danger on the West Bank, he said.

He has applied for refugee status in Canada, but that has been denied, and the Canadian authorities intend to deport him November 4. "Due to my being born into a Hamas family, the Canadian government decided to deport me back to Palestine," he wrote in the blog post. "In January 2015, I gave an interview with The Times of Israel about my situation. Speaking to Israelis! That is a death penalty. Converting to Christianity! That is a death penalty. Being open about my sexuality! Again, that is certain death. If I am deported, sent back to where I was born and raised, it's only a matter of time before I am found dead."

As evidence of his ties to Hamas, Canadian officials note that he admitted he sometimes carried messages for family members and that his family gave him a gun, which he says he never used.

"He was just simply running errands for the senior members of his family," Calvin's attorney Nathan Whiting told CNN Money. "He certainly wasn't involved in any actual acts of terror."

Because the Canadian government considers Calvin a former member of a terrorist group, he cannot appeal the denial of refugee status, Whiting said. In an effort to stay in Canada, Calvin is going through a risk assessment; if the immigration authorities are convinced his life would be in danger in the West Bank, he could remain in Canada but with limited rights. He is also applying for what is called a "ministerial exception," which would allow him to seek permanent residence in Canada; the government grants few such exceptions. As an alternative, he could seek asylum in the U.S., which would most likely require him to visit a U.S. embassy in Israel or Jordan.

Calvin's supporters have set up a petition appealing to the Canadian government to let the young man stay. He has attracted some celebrity allies, including Roseanne Barr. Find the petition here and watch the CNN Money report below.

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