by members of the Foothills Sanctuary Team (Mary Berg Hill, Sally Harris, Daniel Covey, Anne Hall, Jessica Davis, Sue Ferguson)
In January a team was formed of members of Foothills and we kicked off our work by reaching out to faith communities across Northern Colorado to see if they’d join us for a conversation about forming an interfaith sanctuary coalition. In our planning, we thought we might have 30 leaders from 10 congregations attend. We were wrong. At last Saturday’s workshop, we had 61 people attend, from 18 different faith communities and 6 local groups. We had churches from Cheyenne, Wyoming, Loveland and Fort Collins.
Our presenter was Jennifer Piper, a Denver-based activist who works with the Denver Sanctuary Coalition. Sanctuary is a response to raids, detentions, deportations and the criminalization of immigrants. Providing sanctuary to an immigrant is not just about providing shelter. It can mean walking with an immigrant to obtain a police report, helping them find the funds to pay for an attorney, and most of all, accompanying them on their journey and showing them that we believe their fight is a moral fight. Sanctuary is a strategy to fight individual cases of deportation, and also to advocate for an end to mass detention and deportation. It is a vision of what our communities and the world can be when guided by radical hospitality and courageous love.
Jennifer brought Gustavo with her to share his story, how he came to America in 1991, and has raised his family here. But in 2009, the deportation process began and when his attorney recently told him Voluntary Departure was his best option, Gustavo didn’t know what to do. He has worked here for 26 years. His family lives here. His daughter attends a University.
Gustavo wept openly as he explained that, feeling confused and desperate, he reached out to an immigrants rights group who helped him find a different lawyer, one who fought for him and filed a stay of deportation. But before they got a response on the stay, Gustavo’s permission to be here expired, which is when he sought sanctuary. He lived in a church for only a few days before his request for a stay was granted. Just a few days of faithful witness made the difference for his and his children’s lifetimes.
Northern Colorado does not currently have a Sanctuary Coalition or any sanctuary churches.
So we invite you, to come to a conversation with us, on Thursday, March 23 rd at 7pm, after Vespers. Sign up online or in the social hall. Before then, we ask you to consider, what does our faith call us to do? How is courageous love calling us, and how will we answer that call?