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Sanctuary Everywhere

Sanctuary Everywhere:  NC Council of Churches Information Session

Over a dozen churches and several non-profit organizations met on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 to hear Ms. Jennie Belle from the NC Council of Churches share relevant information about SANCTUARY.  She shared the history of this movement which developed in the 1980’s when Central Americans were fleeing war in their countries and needed safe places to stay.   “Sanctuary is providing a safe place for someone to stay until their case can be justly heard.” 

Those present agreed that most of our brothers and sisters come here without authorization because they lack the legal means to enter the U.S. when fleeing violence, war, oppression, hunger and corrupt governments.  And for those authorized to be here through Temporary Protective Status, that legal immigrant status is presently being revoked. Now, in both cases, they face life without “papers” and possible deportation; separation from their children; or uprooting their families, including their American-born children, to take them to countries where they will likely face economic and/or physical danger.  And with rare exceptions, they have no path to citizenship. Many will need protection to stay.

Currently five churches in NC offer Sanctuary to individuals; another church will open this week.  We heard stories of families involved in these sanctuary journeys—and their impact on participating churches.  No church in the Charlotte area presently offers Sanctuary.  Churches represented will pray, and seek God’s leading about opening their doors to Sanctuary.

“Sanctuary Everywhere” allowed each participant to identify an area to individually and corporately be involved in offering love, open arms and acceptance to our immigrant neighbors.  Whether it is in our place of worship for a few hours on Sundays or on a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week basis, we can act to cast out fear and live into God’s perfect love (1 John 4:18) in multiple ways in our churches, at work, at school, and on the street by:

  • Offering English classes, Health Clinics, “Know your Rights” Sessions
  • Caring for immigrant children
  • Studying with immigrant children
  • Accompanying children and families to court
  • Providing funds for legal counsel
  • Organizing prayer vigils
  • Amplifying the voices of immigrants; advocating for individuals
  • Advocating for just laws, and to end mass detention and deportation

Learn more about Sanctuary at:   www.ncchurches.org

Sign up for updates at:  www.welcometheimmigrant.org

Watch these videos about sanctuary:  https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/politics/100000004969152/safe-haven-the-sanctuary-movement.html            https://www.bravenewfilms.org/sanctuary      http://www.santuariofilm.com/trailer/

Want to help? Contact: Pastor Susan Suarez Webster susanswebster@gmail.com

Pastor’s Plea on Behalf of Refugees

I am privileged to serve at Central UMC in CharlotteMichelle_ezr where the stranger, the alien, the foreigner, the immigrant and the refugee is welcomed and embraced. I have learned much in my few years here for in the midst of thinking I was serving my brothers and sisters who have fled from the refugee camps of Africa, Asia and the Middle East I have been the one who has been served. It has been in the welcoming of folks from all over Latin America that I have been welcomed among them. It is through some of the refugees I have been taught the lessons of humility and hope in the face of their great trials. I have learned real lessons of forgiveness in the grips of what was real brutality and injustice for them. And in the lovely refugees who have clung to life when death, anger, bitterness and hatred seemed to be the only possible outcome of their ordeals, this educated preacher has learned what joy-filled, abiding faith is all about.

It is my privilege, not my burden, to be in community with refugees, whether they are church members or not, whether they claim Christ as Savior or not, whether they are Muslims or not; for I have yet to meet one upon our streets of East Charlotte who has not been full of gratitude for so little. We are a misinformed society who thinks they have a free ride. I don’t have the space to list all the ways this is wrong. You may be surprised. Please come sit with me and Pastor Susan and we will be glad to share all about their travel to the US and the many hurdles they face once here. And yet in the midst of it all, they still teach me about beauty and goodness in humanity, for in them I truly see “imago dei”, the “image of God.” It’s the image of joy, peace, love and hope I see — the very image of the coming of the Christ Child that we are getting ready to celebrate in about a month.

I have yet to meet a Syrian refugee in Charlotte, but I truly hope that I do soon. It will hopefully be a privilege, as it has with all the others. I would like to say, “Welcome. Welcome to Charlotte. Welcome to your new home. We have been waiting for you. How may I help?”

Michelle Chappell