Shelter From the Storm

The trial of 12 sanctuary workers in Tucson has heated up an issue which is being hailed in many quarters as the great moral issue of the 1980's. The movement, whose members provide protection to illegal immigrants from Central America, is protesting the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service's refusal to recognize Salvadoran and Guatemalan emigrants as political refugees. Taking matters into their own hands, more than 150 churches have offered "sanctuary" and have provided active assistance to Central Americans who wish to enter the U.S. without benefit of papers. If we can believe what we read in the papers, the movement is, even for nonbelievers, an opportunity to prove strength of their humanitarian convictions; for Christians and Jews, it is a test of faith.

For those who make a career out of moral outrage, the issue could not have come at a better time: it is a God-send. The radical Catholic bishops of the archdiocese of Milwaukee sent a letter of "personal endorsement" to the local sanctuary coordinating committee, and Jesse Jackson has pledged the support of Operation PUSH. It is the gray haired veterans of the 60's street-fighting that are the most delighted. William Sloane Coffin has recovered much of his old exuberance as he tells his Riverside Church congregation that, "It is not enough to resist with confession, we must confess with resistance." The language of obligation...

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