On Christmas Day Faith Leaders Offer their Churches as Sanctuary to Those Hunted in Raids

On Christmas Day Faith Leaders Offer their Churches
as Sanctuary to Those Hunted in Raids

We Open Our Doors to Today’s Josephs and Marys Despite ICE’s Plan to Deport them

Sanctuary Movement leaders who have offered their congregations as spaces of refuge for immigrants facing deportation are outraged by the news that Immigration Customs and Enforcement and the Department of Homeland security plans to conduct raids targeting families who have fled violence and persecution in Central America.

Faith leaders from many traditions remind our decision makers that the story of Christmas is about a prophet and savior born in a stable and a refugee family that fled the political violence that could have killed Jesus as a baby.

In defiance of a court order to stop detaining children, the Obama administration has increased the detention of families by 173% over the last several months according to the Migration Policy Institute. And now the administration has announced it will search for and deport asylum seeking families to the danger they are seeking to escape.

In the spirit of Christmas, faith leaders are declaring they are ready to once again open their doors to provide refuge for immigrants facing deportation and unjust targeting from ICE.

“As pastors we know that each and every family is a holy family and the individuals and families who have fled violence don’t just need our prayers, they need sanctuary,” explains Rev. Alison Harrington of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson Arizona. “We open our doors to today’s Josephs and Mary’s despite ICE’s plans to deport them.

When we heard that the Obama administration is beginning plans to round up Central American families and deport them back to the violence they have been fleeing, we couldn’t help but imagine what would it have been like if the president was pharaoh in Egypt at the time of Jesus’ birth when he and his family had to run from the death squads of Herod. What if he had ordered the deportation of the Holy Family?”

Rev. Adan Mairena of West Kensington Ministry, Philadelphia, PA added, “Our elected officials cannot say ‘God bless America’ and at the same time deport, exclude, dehumanize, and criminalize those who come seeking refuge, in this case God’s children from Central America. They are those whom Jesus called ‘the least of these.’ If we continue to go down this road of moral decay the consequences will be grave.

As a Christian I stand on the side of divine law and cannot remain silent as our elected leaders give into the darkness that works to divide God’s family as opposed to uniting it. I, and others like me, will continue to put our faith into action no matter what.”

Rev. Chris Jimmerson from First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin where they recently offered sanctuary to Sulma Franco contributing his reflection, “‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.’ (Hebrews 13: 2). The Christian Bible, indeed the sacred texts of most all of the world’s religions are filled with admonitions such as this to treat strangers among us with love and hospitality. Yet, ICE continues to detain entire families, including children, who have fled persecution, trauma and threats against their very lives, re-traumatizing them and threatening to deport them to the very places where their lives will again be threatened. Our immigration courts continue to deny asylum to folks who clearly do have a well-founded fear of persecution and if returned to their country of origin could face fatal consequences.

As a Unitarian Universalist minister, I stand on the side of love, called by the world’s great faith and wisdom traditions to decry ICE’s new plans to detain and deport even more Central American families. Our faith calls upon us to do just the opposite – to offer refuge and support, compassion and hospitality to to these women, men and children. This is our only morally justifiable action.”

Rev. Jim Wiltbank of St. Francis in the Foothills in Tucson, Arizona concluded, “On a day in which we celebrate angels calling out messages of hope and peace ‘for all people,’ I find it disheartening that many here in the country that I love have chosen to turn their backs on the refugee families that need to hear that Christmas message most of all.

As a Sanctuary Movement church, Saint Francis in the Foothills lovingly and eagerly invites all to discover that God will never send them away and encourages the American people to challenge their government to do that same. As Mary and Joseph were accepted into the Bethlehem family, our arms are open to those who today need to find Sanctuary far from home.”