New Sanctuary Movement

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This speech was given by Rev. Mike Mulberry, Community
United Church of Christ (http://www.community-ucc.org),
at the campus May Day “Stop the Raids” rally. The New
Sanctuary Movement began on May 9, 2007, in faith communities
nation wide.

For too long, our country has ignored the blueprint of our
history, the history of communities, collective action, and
organized workers which have built the backbone of wideranging
prosperity within our nation. Rarely is that history
taught in our schools. Rarely is that history celebrated with
the pomp and circumstance afforded the display given to
celebrations of greed and avarice, military power and
death. The backbone is weighed over, threatening to break
because the hands and the eyes reach out for values which
destroy the whole body.
Throughout our nation’s history there have been communities
who have practiced worker justice in organizing
labor, material support for those in need, legal counsel for
those seeking civil rights, and prophetic hospitality for
those in the underground railroad and the sanctuary
movement. We know in our hearts how these communities
have provided the moral backbone of our country, but
rarely has this history made its way into popular consciousness
because fear and greed have been the gospel
preached in the town hall, the daily newspaper, and, yes,
sad to say, too often in our faith communities. Our first
question is not, “What migrant trail, what desert path,
what sojourn is God making among us?” Sadly, our first
question has too often been, “What will be our liability?”
Once again the call has gone out to faith communities
across the nation to be people who practice worker justice,
material support, counsel for civil rights, and prophetic
hospitality into a new sanctuary movement. The Militarized
Border Enforcement Strategy has failed. Everyone,
from right to left of the political spectrum agrees. No militarized
border will keep people who face such grim choices
in their country from the promise of hope in our country.
People will travel to save their families. We would
expect no less of ourselves.
A border policy which offers a gauntlet of death and
separates families, one from another, is only akin to what
our country did with the slave trade. This must not be. A
border policy, proposed by our president, which gives all
the advantages to corporate America, built to avoid legal
liability, and does not allow for families to remain together
is about the unjust status quo. This must not be. President
Bush has said the American workers will not take the jobs
of undocumented workers. We say to our president,
“Respectfully, sir, American workers will take those jobs
but will not work for slave pay. This must not be.”
So ten faith communities have organized in New York.
Ten faith communities have organized in Los Angeles. On
Maundy Thursday, Jesus washed the feet of his migrant
worker friends. So this Maundy Thursday, in San Diego,
faith community leaders washed the feet of migrant workers.
On that same day, during the week of Passover, San
Diego faith community leaders delivered bitter herbs to
the Federal Immigration office. They did this to say, “What
we have now, what is being proposed, this must not be.
We have more backbone.”
The New Sanctuary Movement is now being organized
in the Midwest. The central places for that movement are
Kansas City, Missouri, Chicago, Illinois, and Champaign-
Urbana, Illinois.
So as we seek faith communities, collective action in
this community, we say we shall be the people who once
again provide the blueprint for the life and health for all
the people living and working in this area. When worker
justice is needed in our community, we shall be the people.
When material support is needed in our community,
we shall be the people. When legal counsel for civil rights
is needed in our community, we shall be the people. When
sanctuary, Sabbath, rest, and prophetic hospitality is needed
in our community, we shall be the people. This shall be,
because we have the backbone. Amen.

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