“Social Justice Evangelism”—How Congregations Have United to Shelter Immigrants

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Over 1,100 US congregations have come together to provide sanctuary to migrants at risk of deportation, Eleanor J. Bader reported for Truthout.  “As the right wing’s anti-immigrant fervor gains steam,” Bader wrote, “entire denominations and individual congregations — Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Quaker — have been mobilizing to support immigrants in a variety of ways.”

From protesting at the border and local Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices, to visiting detention camps in witness, to offering physical sanctuary and protection to those at risk of deportation, Bader documented vividly what Reverend Nathan Empsall, the campaign director of Faithful America, a 165,000-member online emergency network of Christians, calls “social justice evangelism” and other congregation leaders refer to as “radical hospitality.”

What exactly is radical hospitality?  Reverend Alison Harrington of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona, described how her congregation provides food, clothing, and shelter to asylum seekers who have been apprehended at the border, while their asylum applications are pending. “The role of my congregants and I, all of us volunteers, is to stay with the new arrivals until they’re put on a bus or plane to their sponsor’s home,” Harrington told Truthout. “We buy the food, do the cooking and serving, do intake, translate and arrange transportation for each person. We also raise the money to pay for this short-term hospitality.”

Offering sanctuary is a “heavy lift,” according to Myrna Orozco-Gallos, who coordinates the Church World Service (CWS) which oversees nationwide sanctuary efforts. “It’s always hard. Some folks who are in sanctuary are separated from their children. The kids come to visit after school and on weekends, but it’s difficult.” Noting that those in sanctuary have to be “really strong,” Orozco-Gallos summarized, “This is family separation, not at the border, but right here in the U.S.”

Source: Eleanor J. Bader, “Over 1,100 Congregations Have Agreed to Provide Sanctuary to Migrants,” Truthout, August 30, 2019, https://truthout.org/articles/over-1100-congregations-have-agreed-to-provide-sanctuary-to-migrants/.

Student Researcher: Yadira Rojas (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator:  Juan Salinas (University of North Florida)