St. Paul, Minn. Dec. 7, 2016 — Yesterday, 100 Minnesota clergy and faith leaders from across the state gathered at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in St. Paul to declare their place of worship as a space of Sanctuary to immigrants seeking refuge. This stance of faith is in response to the President Elect’s planned policies that target immigrants while tearing their families and the country apart through mass deportation.

ISAIAH publicly announced the formation of this network of Sanctuary space and support to the community as a non-partisan, interfaith effort. This is a human rights effort.

sanctuary-press-conference-12-6-16-3Over 30 congregations in the Twin Cities, suburbs and Greater Minnesota have committed to walking the path of being either a Sanctuary or Sanctuary supporting congregation for immigrants that will be seeking refuge. Their commitment will be visible through provisions of safety, advocacy, as well as financial, physical and spiritual support. Most of these congregations are in the process of discerning between their ability to be either Sanctuary or Supporting.

Amid a failed and faulty immigration system the Obama Administration has already deported 2.5 million immigrants. Many churches across the country were, and have been, involved with the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980’s leading into today. The threat by President-Elect, Donald Drumpf to prioritize deporting 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants in the United States – starting on his first day of presidency – has unleashed a hate rhetoric that has forced the most vulnerable members of society into fear of losing their families, communities and homes.

Rev. Grant Stevensen, staff at ISAIAH, recognizes this Sanctuary movement to be one of an urgent matter that is calling to the humanity, dignity and engagement of all people.  “Many of us standing here have been asleep and we have been woken up by the terror and the fear that immigrants are feeling now because of the rhetoric that is being thrown around for the last year in this country,” Stevensen said, “and we intend to stay awake.”

The clergy, faith leaders and congregations have taken this path among many unknowns about the upcoming administration. They are praying for the best, but preparing for the worst. Current policies include the notion of “Sensitive Locations” where U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) avoid entering places such as hospitals, schools or places of worship to arrest, detain or deport an individual or family. It is unknown what kind of legal protection sacred spaces will have in the future.  The congregations are in ongoing relationships with legal counsel and immigration experts and organizations as they prepare for what may come.

For many of the Christians in this network, to launch this movement during the season of Advent has particular significance. “As we prepare for the season of Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of a child named Jesus, we remember that his family could find no room in the inn. And found themselves refugees, because of political persecution and violence in their homeland,” said Pastor James Erlandson of Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in St. Paul during the press conference.  “We must find room in our hearts and room in our church for Sanctuary.”

Over a dozen churches have publically announced Sanctuary or Sanctuary Support in the Twin Cities, White Bear Lake, New Hope, Golden Valley, Columbia Heights, Richfield and Northfield. Over 20 more are preparing to make similar announcements by January.

Four senior pastors, Victoria E. Safford in White Bear Lake, Doug Pagitt in Minneapolis, Erlandson of St. Paul and Mark Vinge of New Hope, gave statements of faith, love, hope and resistance of hate during the press conference. ISAIAH’s Director of Communications and United Church of Christ minister, JaNaé Bates spoke of a united stance of ‘Prophetic Resistance’ that displays a love that is powerful and displayed in deed. ISAIAH prophetically looks to a future of justice and hope, declaring a concerted effort into resisting hate and creating the future that faith and hope says is possible.