Sunday, February 26, 2017
I was in the sanctuary of Bridge St UC just after 8:00 this morning, preaching to the empty pews as preparation for what I'm hoping will be fuller pews at 10:30. We use the word "sanctuary" to describe our worship space without thinking about it much, if ever. We will speak of finding sanctuary from a storm, and we generally think wildlife sanctuaries are a good thing. We are fortunate that sanctuary is a figure of speech for most churchgoers rather than a necessity for safety.
There is a growing sanctuary movement in the United States as churches and other places of worship are banding together to provide safe places for those who are undocumented citizens of the country and risk deportation. One of the those cities is New York where there are an estimated 1.2 million illegal immigrants. This is a staggering number, and many residents realize that the city would be brought to a standstill if these people who are the backbone of the restaurant industry as well as other service jobs suddenly disappeared.
The threat of the Trump administration to deport the estimated 14 million illegal residents of the United States is incredibly short-sighted, but it is a promise which terrifies those who could be affected and offends those who see this as antithetical to American values.
Rev. Donna Schaper has worked for immigration rights for more than a decade, and her church, Judson Memorial, recently housed a man awaiting a deportation hearing. But never in all those years has she seen so many people reaching out for help as she does now, and the inquiries have increased ten-fold in recent weeks.
Faith groups all over the city are holding meetings to strategize a response to the expected immigration crackdown. At Judson, they're hosting "know your rights" training, where participants learn what to do when approached by an agent from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
What a sad reality in a nation which prides itself on freedom and justice for all.
What do you think about this sanctuary movement? In your view, if churches engaged in illegal activity harbouring illegal immigrants, would a "higher law" of justice take precedence? Would you participate in sanctuary activities if you felt it was necessary?