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Faith communities join together for sanctuary

Learning about sanctuary (Photo by Phil Haslanger)

“We gather as people in the community fighting for justice in the way we understand it,” said Rev. Winton Boyd, pastor of Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ in the prayer that opened a meeting about faith communities providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.

Five congregations in Madison have already committed to using their buildings to provide sanctuary. Another 11 congregations have pledged to provide support. On Sunday night, about 60 people gathered at the Madison Christian Community to look at how an array of faith communities can work together on both the humanitarian and political fronts for immigrants.

The people came from Christian congregations and Jewish synagogues, from Unitarian Universalist societies and grass-roots organizations. Lutherans, Mennonites, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, members of the United Church of Christ all are working together to provide safe places in the midst of deportation efforts.

Boyd said that in his 18 years in Madison, he has never seen a coalition of people across the religious community that came together so quickly.

“Madison has gone a long ways toward creating a framework through which congregations can collaborate,” said Peter Haney, who at the end of July attended a convocation of sanctuary organizers in Austin, Texas, from across the county.

More than 800 congregations nationwide are now sanctuaries, said Sergio Gonzalez, an organizer for the Dane Sanctuary Coalition. He praised people for the work already done, but said, “The next steps are going to be long and they are going to be hard.”

Working on some of those steps will be Abril Moreno, a young woman from Sheboygan who helped organize students at Sheboygan North High School when she was there as well as in the wider Sheboygan community. Voces de la Frontera has hired her – with financial support from Madison-area congregations – to work in Madison.

Moreno said her parents brought her with them from Mexico to the U.S. when she was five years old. She is now a Dreamer – one of those protected for now by DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) that is in the midst of a legislative and legal battle.

“I am dedicated to fighting for a more humane world that recognizes the dignity of all people,” Moreno told the crowd.

Boyd urged the crowd to take courage from Moreno’s story – “If those who have a lot to lose can get up and fight, those of us who have less to lose can do the same.”

Organizers for the Dane Sanctuary Coalition outlined the need for people to sign up for a variety of tasks, ranging from direct help for those seeking sanctuary, advocacy around political issues and communicating both within and beyond the movement.

The Dane Sanctuary Coalition has a presence on Facebook at this site – https://www.facebook.com/DaneSanctuary/