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“Part of understanding Justice is to recognize the disproportions among which we live…”
it takes an awful lot of living with the powerless to begin to understand what it is like to be powerless, to have your voice, thoughts, ideas and concerns count for very little. We, who have been given much, whose voices can be heard, have a great responsibility to make our voices heard with absolute integrity for those who are powerless.” John O’Donohue
In May 2017 our Friends Meeting made a covenant with other faith groups in Cambridge, MA. We will actively support immigrants, including we are willing to harbor families threatened with deportation within our walls.
Our sanctuary covenant reminds me of the prophet Micah. “What does the Lord require of you? —to love kindness, to do justice, and to walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8) I don’t join in Sanctuary to help others as if I have skills to offer those less fortunate. I come here to learn, I come to share suffering, and to show friendliness in a harsh country that divides parents from children.
Sanctuary is also holy justice. We are following God’s justice, not humankind’s imperfect laws “I’m not free, until this family is free,” “I’m not safe until all of us are safe.” I chose to join a movement modeling a restorative, reconciling justice. I will speak out and demand fair treatment for all. We will build a holy mountain, not a dividing wall.
How do I walk humbly as I live out the promise of sanctuary? We need to keep our words tender and our hearts open. I keep learning and keep asking for understanding.
Our Quaker Meeting has an amazing group of volunteers, many spending 4 hours every week to accompany an Latina woman who needs asylum. She needs asylum from threats against her life in her native country. Sadly, she needs asylum because of threats from US officers (ICE) who are deporting those with no other offense than not having the right legal documents.
On September 30, 2017 across the nation about 500 immigrants without papers were nabbed by ICE (immigration Control Enforcement). In Massachusetts, 50 were detained by ICE. “The city of Boston, especially the police and the mayor, have been telling us that this is not going to happen in our community,” Patricia Montes, director of Centro Present
e says. “And it is happening. ICE is coming and is detaining people with no criminal convictions.” Twenty of the 50 people arrested in MA had no criminal record. These raids send a message of fear to immigrant neighborhoods. These raids are so far away from our striving for the Blessed Community .
Among Quakers active in Sanctuary we are realizing we need to do more than just accompany one family. In our Covenant we agreed to view the resilience and immense strength of Sanctuary guests. We are not here to “help” immigrants or to “speak for” them. Immigrants decide the direction of their lives. We discussed some disadvantages of the word “advocacy.” Just the word as we say it means to ‘advocate for someone. Whereas grammatically we “accompany with someone. A power dynamic is implied in the 2 prepositions.
In order to be an ally to refugees in our community what actions can we do? I like the vision of earlier Friends about traveling in twos, speaking God’s Truth and against injustice. Choose where you are led to go, take a Friends with you and go. Two people could witness court hearings where defendant is an immigrant, two can go to the State House to speak up for bills such as the Safe Communities Act, two can go to Centro Presente and help teaching adult ESL English classes. Friends can join a Rapid Response Network in the case of raids.
In the Sanctuary Covenant it states, “We strive to create an environment in which our leaders of color and immigrant leaders’ voices are valued and prioritized, so as not to reinforce the oppressive dynamics we strive to change.”