The Common Good
September/October 2007

Standing Up for Sanctuary

by Belinda Passafaro | September/October 2007

The broken immigration system is a spiritual issue.

'The ringing of the bells announces a new thing and breaks the silence. So too do we announce our new resolve to speak out about injustice, to no longer be silent and complicit, to welcome our brothers and sisters who are in this land with us ... in the name and in the spirit of our common and diverse religious traditions." With these words the New Sanctuary Movement was launched in New York City on May 9.

At the interfaith service that morning, two families came forth publicly with their U.S.-born children to seek "sanctuary" with religious congregations and leaders. These families have a final deportation order and risk being torn apart from their loved ones. As we held their children in our arms, we were reminded that family unity must always be the cornerstone of humane and just immigration reform. Our families are the greatest testament to hope, faith, and courage in the face of continual adversity.

After attending an initial meeting in New York, I knew that silence during this poignant time in our nation's history would be betrayal of our fellow brothers and sisters. How could we, rooted in a faith tradition that compels us to act on behalf of the most vulnerable members of our society, not respond to this grave humanitarian crisis? As people of faith, we needed to act and we did. The Latino Leadership Circle (LLC), of which I am a member, responded by becoming a partner in the New Sanctuary Movement.

LLC is an emergent cohort of Latino/Latina ministers in New York City that seeks to support, equip, and engage Christian leaders to serve as catalysts for personal and community transformation. In becoming a New Sanctuary partner, LLC bridged theological reflection and praxis. We put our faith into action. We believe that the broken immigration system is, first and foremost, a spiritual issue, that the very soul of our nation is in peril.

Sanctuary congregations and allied partners span the theological and political spectrum but are united in a common tradition of welcoming the stranger among us and of loving neighbors as ourselves. Let us stand in solidarity with those suffering amongst us and provide them "sanctuary." Let us stand to reform a damaged immigration system. In doing so, we continue in the spiritual tradition of our ancestors and advance the common good for all people.

Belinda Passafaro is a Marketplace minister and an active member of the Latino Leadership Circle (

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