Immigration Reform: The Sanctuary Movement
In late December, 2019, our Session voted to approve the request from the Immigration Task Force to host 3 young men seeking political asylum from Burkina Faso.
The 3 had been in a maximum security prison in Youngstown for 8 months while their case was pending in the courts. Their “crime” had been asking for asylum in the U.S. after the horrific massacre of their families in their village in Burkina Faso.
Their release was secured after Forest Hill Church and many community organizations (Catholic Charities, Heights Friends of Immigrants, American Making Immigrants Safe, Jobs with Justice) worked together to raise the $15,000 bond set for each man.
After their arrival on Jan. 13, Issoufou Lembane, Idrissa Kiema, and Emmanuel Sabo were welcomed to their new apartment. A French-speaking interpreter enabled us to converse with our guests.
When offered food, Emmanuel replied, “We’re too excited to eat.” When offered an apology for the treatment they received during detention, Emmanuel said, “We don’t want to look back. We want to look forward.” Issoufou and Idrissa nodded their heads affirmatively. And when Pastor Lentz offered to arrange for two of the men, practicing Muslims, to attend a Mosque, Issoufou replied: “God is God.”
Despite all they have been through, these young men exude humility and love. Words cannot capture their modesty and grace. They have much to teach us, and are eager to learn from us.
Everyone involved has been an agent of God’s grace—the beloved community in action. We thank our Immigration Task Force and their many partners who helped to bring about this yet unfolding story of Christ’s beloved community opening beyond its comfort zone.
The Background of Our Sanctuary Ministry
In early 2017, a member contacted the church about a movement in which churches, mosques, and temples were helping and providing safe space for immigrants and Muslims, African Americans and anyone who feels endangered in this country.
Around the same time, our national organization, the Presbyterian Church (USA), published Sanctuary: A Discernment Guide for Congregations.* The guide describes the Sanctuary as “a growing movement of immigrant and faith communities who are standing with groups made vulnerable by the current political climate, including immigrants at risk of deportation” and pledges to:
resist the newly elected administration’s policy proposals to target and deport millions of undocumented immigrants and discriminate against marginalized communities. We will open up our congregations and communities as sanctuary spaces for those targeted by hate, and work alongside our friends, families, and neighbors to ensure the dignity and human rights of all people.
While discerning our role in this movement, we learned of a potential deportee, in danger of being separated from her four children, who was requesting sanctuary.
In early Sept, 2017, we offered sanctuary to Leonor in the form of an apartment we created for her at the church for almost three years until her long-awaited work permit and filings on the path to citizenship were finally granted.
How You Can Help
Many who hear these stories are eager to help.
To volunteer to spend some hospitality time with the men, cook a meal, take the men to outside activities, or spend the night, email email@example.com
Financial help may be delivered in person or by mail to Forest Hill Church, 3031 Monticello Blvd., Cleveland Heights, OH 44118 either by cash or checks (payable to Forest Hill Church) Please indicate that the donation is for the Sanctuary Movement. Online donations may be made online through our Paypal account. Please indicate “Sanctuary Movement” in the “Add special instructions to seller” field.