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Lifting up the sky: Resisting injustice, creating sanctuary

Sanctuary in the Streets role play Photo: Lucy Duncan / AFSC

I visited my friend on Friday. As I stood on his doorstep I looked at the rosy, streaked sky. Chimney swifts flitted by. He opened the door and let me in. We have been creating for one another sanctuary, a place to ignite our political imagination, to speak our fears and our aspirations, to tell each other stories. We grow stronger together to resist and create.

It’s not the only place I experience this: in a small community committed to experiment with radical faith, with co-workers, sometimes just in a conversation on the way to work. People are being real, open, extending their hands, weaving a net of connection and resistance.

Two Sundays ago, I went to a Sanctuary in the Streets training presented by the New Sanctuary Movement in the basement of a Catholic church. Two hundred of us told stories of how working for social justice came to be important to us. We heard one woman’s story of three of her family members being deported, targeted, harassed. We wept with her. Then we learned how to stand in the way of deportation raids. In my group we linked arms and obstructed those portraying Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. I felt strong, determined.

There have been six ICE raids in Philadelphia in the past two weeks. On Wednesday the first text came calling us to show up for a raid. The young woman who called said ICE officers were pounding on her door. The call dropped before the receiver of the call could get her address, so we were summoned to the ICE headquarters at 16th and Callowhill.

Before I arrived a man was brought into the facility. Four more people were transported to a detention center. We gathered and sang. We chanted, “We have come this far, We won’t turn around, We’ll flood the streets with justice, We are freedom bound.”

It was hard, daunting. The wall is already so high. The infrastructure for cruelty and harm is already so intricate and normalized. I became more determined to stand in the way… and more aware of how hard it will be. The media came to cover the incident, we stayed so the word would be spread – we were late, but we will show up, stand up, muck up the harsh system as much as we can. The circle will grow.

At the end of the training in the church basement, Maria, an immigrant and community organizer said, “The sky has fallen.” We all reached down and together we lifted up the sky. Maybe if enough of us stand at the door when the men in blue come for our neighbors, if enough of us join hands, create sanctuary for the birth pangs of justice and love, for an emergent political and spiritual reality, we too can lift up the sky.

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About the Author

Lucy serves as Director of Friends Relations for AFSC. She blogs, organizes Quakers to work for justice, and has helped create AFSC's Sanctuary Everywhere stream of program work. She has been instrumental in the adaptation of Quaker social change ministry as a tool for reclaiming Spirit-guided social change work focused on companioning those most impacted by injustice.

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