Saturday, August 19, 2006

Being a Sanctuary: Are the UMC acting illegally or doing the right thing?

Well a Methodist church has harbored a single mother who has sought safe sanctuary there. She is an illegal alien and was about to be deported. She has been there since Tuesday seeking safe sanctuary. The feds have said they could raid the church to detain her, but have decided against that. This deportion of illegal aliens has caused a firestorm. It could get worse if the feds invaded the church. Read the article here. The church has always been a place of safe sanctuary and should continue to do so. I think in some ways the INS has gone into a reactive stance because of 911 instead a case by case review. I know that we went through a very tedious paperwork to make sure our children are legal citizens. But what if you are desparate, running from the oppression in your country, civil war, looking for Lady Liberty, and di not have the ability to make it here legally?

Here is the article from the UMC news feature.

Illegal immigrant invokes sanctuary. Immigration activists around the country are taking up the cause of a single mother who invoked the ancient principle of sanctuary and took refuge in a Chicago church rather than submit to deportation to Mexico. Pastor Walter Coleman said his congregation offered Arellano refuge after praying about her plight. Coleman said he does not think Arellano should have to choose between leaving her son behind or removing him from his home.

But Joel Fetzer, associate professor of political science at Pepperdine University in California, said: "If the government comes in, it's going to look very jack-booted fascistic. It would look very bad."
Churches and synagogues also tried to offer sanctuary to illegal immigrants escaping civil war in El Salvador during the 1980s, a civil disobedience activity known as the Sanctuary movement. Susan Gzesh, a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago who assisted the churches and synagogues that offered sanctuary, said she does not believe federal authorities ever went into the churches to make arrests. (reported in this article)

Experts in legal history say the principle of sanctuary has roots in ancient Jewish law, while the ancient Greeks also allowed criminals to seek asylum in temples. The tradition continued into the 17th century in England when it was abolished as the secular authority of the monarchy exerted itself against church authority, said Wayne Logan, a visiting law professor at William & Mary College.( From the examiner)

I looked further to what Sanctuary means. Wikipedia says this; Sanctuary has multiple meanings. A sanctuary is the consecrated (or sacred) area of a church or temple around its tabernacle or altar. In medieval law, a sanctuary was a place of religious right of asylum for felons on the run from the law. An animal sanctuary is a place where animals live and are protected. In modern parlance the term is used to mean a place of safety. Sanctuary was also a right to be safe from arrest in the sanctuary of a church or temple, recognized by English law from the 4th to the 17th century.

Sanctuary means refuge: a safe place, especially for people being persecuted
A Holy Place: religion a holy place such as a church, mosque, or temple
A asylum
A shelter
Safe Haven
Haven
Place of Safety

What would I do as Pastor of our church? I would give her haven, get the legal people involved, and then go from there.

1 comment:

Purechristianithink said...

I think I would have probably done the same thing.