Religion & Politics: The Sanctuary Movement, Then and Now

„During the first Sanctuary Movement in the United States, the word “sanctuary” meant something quite specific. The concept came from a broader understanding of the right of asylum, as practiced in ancient cultures in Greece, Egypt, and Israel. Much later, in medieval Europe, religious communities adopted this tradition, offering protection for someone being persecuted—whether for criminal or political acts. Jewish and Christian congregations drew on cultural traditions and biblical passages like those in Exodus and the Gospels which admonish care for the stranger, the poor, and those afflicted. […]

Will President Trump’s executive order criminalizing sanctuary jurisdictions and cutting off funds work? I don’t know. In addition to the San Francisco lawsuit, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, and Washington state have filed suits against both the sanctuary ban and the travel ban executive orders. Nonetheless, these executive orders likely have had and will have a chilling effect on people who say they want to help refugees but who are unwilling to face the potential consequences.

One thing I do know from my own experience is that the concept of sanctuary has two parts. Yes, it is a safe place, however vaguely defined. It is a place of retreat, a place that shuts out danger or perceived danger. And it is also a concept that requires action. Sanctuary doesn’t happen by itself. It does not happen by chance. Sanctuary is a deliberate undertaking, of people acting on behalf of others and communities.”

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