On the 13th of this month, which we know as October, but also call Black History Month, we will also be focussing on sanctuary. This will be the day, God willing, when we mark our intention to be a place that is open, welcoming, inclusive and intentional about providing a safe place for people seeking asylum and that this should be in the light of our overall approach. In the struggle against the oppressive apartheid system, Nelson Mandela headed up a rainbow coalition from people from different backgrounds. Dr Martin Luther King Jnr also stood side by side with people from backgrounds other than African American.
My point is that in order to welcome some we need to welcome all; in order to welcome all we need to welcome some. If we say we are serious about being welcoming and inclusive, this needs to apply across the board, but sometimes it is good and it is needful to concentrate on and redress imbalances that need addressing.
This is why there is no White History Month! A bias against and disregard for the history and achievements of people of colour needs to be countered.
This is why, as Christians we need to have churches like ours that declare themselves as Churches of Sanctuary to assert that it can be very hard for people seeking asylum to feel welcomed in society today.
Jesus himself was a refugee in Egypt and the Old Testament is full of commands to welcome the stranger, the alien, the foreigner:
“Don’t mistreat any foreigners who live in your land. Instead, treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself. Remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19.33-34).