Sanctuary and faith have always been companions in compassion. Ancient Hebrew temples and medieval Christian churches offered refuge to many seeking escape from unjust retribution. During the mid-nineteenth century, Unitarians in Boston practiced a form of sanctuary, serving as the final link in an underground railroad on the way to Canada, aiding slaves seeking freedom. Sanctuary, as the UUA writes, “is about providing safe space to those who are victims of unjust laws.”
Tom Benjamin reminded me about the sanctuary movement in the 1980’s when his Houston UU congregation during the Central American civil wars offered a safe space, opening its doors to fleeing political refugees facing death squads in their native countries. More than 500 congregations of all faith traditions established an equivalent underground railroad of safe houses and safe churches.
Sanctuary today takes many forms. The New Sanctuary Movement is a coalition of congregations in major cities throughout the country, churches, synagogues, temples opening their doors, providing refuge to those facing deportation, defending Obama-era administrative policies such as Prosecutorial Discretion, speaking loudly and forcefully through prophetic witness at local, state and national venues, defending Dreamers, working with education officials to protect undocumented students on campuses, preventing the heartless separation of mothers from their children, ensuring that local law enforcement does not partner with ICE, creating networks to provide legal assistance, housing assistance, family planning, bail support funds, education about rights and sanctuary space, stopping the Trump Wall, advocating for fair and enlightened immigration reform.
Of the six sources of our living tradition, there is our affirmation of our Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves, teachings wisely expressed in sacred texts:
“learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17)
“love our neighbors as ourselves” (Luke 10:27)
“We promote and affirm justice, equity and compassion in human relations” (2nd UU principle)
Let us be a “safe and welcoming community, pledging our time and vigor to the continuing celebration of spirit, of the world and of humankind.”
Join our congregational conversation about sanctuary on Sunday, between services in the Chapel.
Contact Jim Caldiero, firstname.lastname@example.org