Safe refuge and sanctuary in our congregations

February 06, 2017
Safe refuge and sanctuary in our congregations
Youngsook C.  Kang
February 6, 2017
The Sanctuary Movement started as a religious campaign in the United States in the early 1980s to provide a safe place for Central American refugees and was re-formed as an ecumenical, faith-based movement in 2014.
Now the Sanctuary Movement again is playing a critical role as a response to the current United States reality that vulnerable populations are mistreated and are discriminated against their religions and nationalities.
The idea of immigration is not new for the United States. We are a country of immigrants who came here with a hope for a prosperous life, free of persecution because of our religious beliefs or cultural background. President Trump’s recent executive orders restricting immigration from seven Muslim countries, suspending all refugee admission for 120 days, and barring Syrian refugees indefinitely go against the very ideals of the United States and the United Methodist Church. In addition to the recent executive order, the Trump administration has promised to deport millions of undocumented individuals and families.
Bishop Bruce Ough, the president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops issued a statement regarding these drastic implementations earlier this week ( ) stating, “[We] strongly denounce President Trump’s widespread attack on immigrants and refugees...The very soul of our country is at stake. When we abandon strangers who are at risk of bigotry, xenophobia and violence we not only destroy their hope, we destroy our own souls. When we fail to assist the refugees fleeing danger, we not only place them in harm’s way, we do harm to our own souls. When we build walls of concrete, or walls of divisive rhetoric, or walls of fear, or walls of immoral immigration policies, we build a wall around our own souls.” Bishop Ough called upon the people of United Methodist Church to see the face of Christ in the refugee, to say “no” to walling off our country, and “yes” to their hope of a new life.
We at the Rocky Mountain Conference are striving to see the face of Christ in refugees and immigrants.
Many immigrants and refugees living in the United States today are the least, the last and the lost. They find themselves living in the margin, belonging nowhere.  Leviticus 19:33-34 teaches us to love sojourners in the land as ourselves and treat them as the natives among us.
In this light, we are actively working on a response to these executive orders and will be offering a Sanctuary Movement Training on April 1-2 at Smoky Hill United Methodist Church. (Registration info can be found here.) Sanctuary has a long history in our faith and has helped to stop thousands of deportations through individual case advocacy.  The Rocky Mountain Conference is proud to be a part of this tradition.

A resource kit on the Sanctuary Movement can be found here. This resource titled “A Faithful Witness to Building Welcoming Communities” is provided by the General Board of Church and Society.
Our local and surrounding communities are also providing and preparing safe spaces for immigrants and refugees. AJ Bush, a United Methodist pastor in Gillette, Wyoming, has invited Samantha Gupta, a Unitarian Universalist community organizer and scholar of white identity to look more closely at what inclusive and just movements are possible in her rural community. Together they hosted their first “Rural Race Dialogue” in which they simulated the assimilation process of the immigrant and facilitated dialogue and reflection on the experience ( ).
On February 2, representatives from the City of Denver and State of Colorado met alongside community leaders and immigration lawyers for a community dialogue at North High School about Denver's status as a "sanctuary city". As it currently stands, the Denver Sheriff's Department is committed to rejecting any requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold undocumented individuals without a federal warrant, and representatives of the department promised the audience that this policy of non-cooperation would not change. Lawyers from the Office of the Mayor, ACLU, and private immigration law offices are confident that Denver is currently not in violation of any laws or executive orders in regards to cooperation with ICE, and they are committed to filing suit against the federal government if attempts are made to remove federal funding from the city.
Friends in Christ, we ask for prayers for those individuals whose families, lives and foundations have been devastated during this critical time. We must come together to show support and unity.
If you have any questions or input please contact Youngsook Kang at