In Times of Trial | Sojourners

In Times of Trial

For many, the sanctuary movement has been a road of sorts: for refugees, the road to safe haven; for congregations, a conduit to renewed life in the faith community; for the eight sanctuary workers convicted in May 1986, a continuing pathway marked by compassion and hardened by increasing government opposition.

For A. Bates Butler III, one of the attorneys in the sanctuary trial, it has been the passageway to a new appreciation for the power of grassroots Christian community. Though Butler's experience with sanctuary began in March 1984, when he defended Philip Willis-Conger on charges from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for transporting refugees, one can only appreciate Butler's involvement by taking a look at the Tucson attorney's history as a Christian and as an upholder of the law. Then the true length of the path he has traveled becomes apparent.

In spite of his recent court battles with the INS and the U.S. Justice Department, Butler's personal history threads its way squarely through the middle of the camps of his new-found opponents. While attending law school in Washington, D.C., Butler served on the Capitol Police Force. After graduation, he traveled throughout Latin America and lived for a year in Bolivia - an experience that later helped him to better understand the situation of refugees coming from El Salvador and Guatemala.

"I think that it gave me a greater appreciation for what is going on in Latin America in general," says Butler. "Though no one ever really understands until they've lived through an exodus, to some extent I understand the incredible situations which force these people to flee."

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