Michigan congregations offer immigrants sanctuary

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit – In the wake of an intensified deportation campaign affecting immigrants across the country, Michigan religious leaders are offering sanctuary in their communities.

Seven churches and one Jewish temple committed Tuesday to opening their doors to immigrants seeking sanctuary.

The announcement was made at Central United Methodist Church on East Adams, which has a long history of providing sanctuary to those in need. The purpose is to keep families together who are threatened by deportation.

“Donald Trump has promised a new wave of deportation,” said the Rev. Paul Perez, director of mission and justice engagement and leadership recruitment for the Detroit Conference of the United Methodist Church. “As president, he has kept this promise.”

He continued, “Raids at workplaces are starting and families are being broken apart and living in fear. We are called to have a different set of promises and to recognize the intrinsic worth of every human being.”

According to a 2011 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo, ICE officers and agents are to avoid arrests, interviews, searches and surveillance actions at “sensitive locations such as schools or churches” except for certain situations.

Central United Methodist Church senior pastor Jill Zundel said the church already is housing one family.

“They are a husband, wife and four kids under 7 who are seeking political asylum,” said Zundel. “They are living in an apartment on the fifth floor and they arrived about two weeks ago.”

In addition to Central United, the other congregations offering to provide sanctuary include Birmingham Temple Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Farmington Hills, Ferndale First United Methodist Church, Sunnyside United Methodist Church in Portage, First Congregational Church in Kalamazoo, Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield and two other Detroit churches – Pleasant Grove Baptist and Metropolitan AME Zion.

Organizers also announced a unity march between the Latino Christian community of southwest Detroit and the Arab-American and Muslim community of Dearborn. The march will convene at St. Gabriel’s Church on Vernor Highway at 3:30 p.m. April 2.

Rev. Dr. Louis Forsythe II, pastor of Pleasant Grove, said he was “proud to declare ourselves a sanctuary congregation.”

“Each of us has a part to play and we are calling upon houses of worship to join us to take others in, to comfort and shelter them,” he said.

Rabbi Jeff Falick from the Birmingham Temple Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, said his community is pleased to join the cause.

“We proudly declare our congregation a secular humanistic site of sanctuary,” said Falick.


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