'With God's Help ...' | Sojourners

'With God's Help ...'

Sidebar to "Convicted of the Gospel"

In 1985 and 1986, the U.S. government spent an estimated $2 million to prosecute 11 church workers for offering sanctuary to refugees from the U.S.'s "dirty wars" in Central America. After a trial in which defense attorneys were not allowed to introduce evidence of the refugees' or defendants' motives or information on the 1980 Refugee Act, eight defendants were convicted. —The Editors

What is a registered Republican who voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 doing in the sanctuary movement? Living out her faith and doing what has to be done, says Kay Kelly, the 62-year-old widow and grandmother who was put under house arrest for her refusal to testify as a government witness in the sanctuary trial.

"I was not a political activist looking for a cause," Kelly says, explaining how she got involved in refugee work. "But when you see these people coming in and you hear their stories...to me it's just the thing to do. All through life I've been taught that you love your neighbor as yourself, you help them, you do whatever is necessary."

Kelly began attending Southside Presbyterian Church with her husband and mother in 1981, shortly before the congregation voted to make the church a public sanctuary. After both her husband and mother died and she had been forced into early retirement from her job at the University of Arizona library—all during the last eight months of 1983—Kelly told Rev. John Fife that she needed something to do. In January 1984 she began working with refugees.

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