In July, with support from the St. Louis Coalition on Sanctuary, IFCLA sent Sara John along with Jose Alfredo Chavez from Latinos en Axión to the National Sanctuary Movement Annual Convening. The conference was held at the Austin Theological Seminary on July 28-29, 2019. This space was organized by Rev. Noel Anderson and Myrna Orozco Gallos, of the Sanctuary Movement (see www.sanctuarynotdeportation.org). About 40 participants from across the country attended the conference, which offered four primary objectives: develop a coordinated messaging framework for the Sanctuary Movement; coordinate our work moving forward and have space for strategy conversations; provide training opportunities for those seeking to engage in this work for the first time; and provide space for networking, fellowship and learning from each other.
Sanctuary is a way to be in solidarity with the undocumented community by creating safe space for the prophetic voices of immigrant leaders to be lifted up as we together confront unjust laws. Rooted in our shared faith values, sanctuary is a deep tradition that has meant offering radical hospitality to marginalized people, accompanying them in their struggle for justice and advocating for their liberation. We learned that sanctuary is unique in time, people and places. There is no “one way” to do it, but what ties us together are the values we cherish, which are increasingly threatened by systemic racism and expanding immigration enforcement activity.
In the last 3 years, the Sanctuary Movement has supported over 40 public sanctuary cases. Of these, more than 22 are still pending and at least 16 have received relief from deportation. The national Movement is a broad network of congregations, which has grown from 400 at the beginning of this year to now more than 800! A wide variety of traditions participate in this work of prophetic resistance including: United Methodist, Presbyterian USA, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, Disciples of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Episcopal, Catholic, Friends Meeting, a variety of Jewish synagogues, and others.
While sanctuary is a strategy and can be a powerful tool not only for direct relief from deportation but also for organizing and mobilizing community support and response to changing immigration policies. Sanctuary, however, is not the goal. Our goal is to ensure that the dignity of all, including immigrants and their families, is honored and respected. Sanctuary is one of many strategies for this struggle for justice.
Please keep reading for details about the St. Louis Coalition on Sanctuary and current sanctuary efforts in this area.