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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA church group risks prosecution in forming sanctuary congregation

    Friday, February 1, 1985

    More than 300 University of Arizona faculty, staff and students involved in the ministries at the Campus Christian Center run the risk of federal indictment by having declared themselves a “”sanctuary”” congregation.

    “”We are a sanctuary. Out members offer help to refugees by keeping them in our homes, providing transportation, food, jobs, translators and other services essential to their welfare,”” said the Rev. Herb F. Schmidt, pastor of the Lutheran Campus Ministry.

    While all 300 involved with the center risk indictment because of the declaration last spring, only about 10 people at the center actually assist Central American refugees fleeing that region, Schmidt said.

    “”All of us in the sanctuary movement risk being indicted, particularly those 10 or 12 individuals who actively house and transport refugees,”” he said.

    Schmidt declined to identify those members.

    “”The most important thing is that we in the sanctuary movement believe that we are acting legally, while our government is acting illegally by not granting refugee status or extended departures to these people from Central America,”” he said.

    Schmidt was an organizer of the Inter-American Symposium on Sanctuary held last week in Tucson.

    “”Due to the day-and-night use of the center, seldom do refugees stay here,”” he said. “”We rely on the members of the congregation to provide aid and assistance, which they do because of their deep religious convictions.””

    The movement and sanctuary declaration at the Campus Christian Center resulted from months of study, research and serious reflection upon the issues and consequences for those involved.

    Only then did the various congregations seek permission from their national councils to declare sanctuary, Schmidt said.

    Also, local workers and supporters of the movement have started a campaign of propose to the Tucson City Council and the Pima County Board of Supervisors that Tucson be declared a city of refuge, Schmidt said.

    If adopted, the declaration would be similar to one passed in 1971 in Berkeley, Calif., which made the city a safe haven for draft resisters during the Vietnam War.

    Schmidt said he sees all the same characteristics in the sanctuary movement that marked the Vietnam-era protests, the civil-rights demonstrations of the 1960s and the underground railroads of the Civil War and World War II.

    “”The primary leadership of this movement comes from seasoned veterans of the Vietnam and civil-rights movements. They are high-caliber, high-quality people dedicated to freeing people from the terrors of tyranny and oppression,”” Schmidt said.

    “”The response to the symposium, attracting more than 1,500 participants and more than 100 national and international media representatives, indicated the strength of the movement—not just nationalist but locally.

    “”the government did the movement a real service by announcing the indictments of the 16 sanctuary workers at the beginning of the symposium,”” Schmidt said, referring to the massive publicity the event received.

    The movement involves over 200 sanctuary congregations nation-wide, with 400 workers actively coordinating the movement’s efforts to provide sage haven for refugees who feel they face persecution and death if deported.

    The future promises much progress for the movement, he said, adding that more that 200 additional congregations are expected to declare sanctuary soon.

    Workers expect Congress will pass legislation that would temporarily suspend the deportation of Salvadorans from the Unites States until the conditions which caused them to flee disappear.

    As a result of the symposium and consultation, Schmidt said, a national security-defense fund was organized.

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