By Rita Jiménez, IMIRJ
Our world, our country, our city and our neighborhood need sanctuaries. So creating sanctuary for immigrants is the focus of local nonprofit Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIRJ).
Founded in 2006, IMIRJ advocates for just immigration policies, as well as direct action like coordinating physical sanctuary for an immigrant seeking protection from deportation – the rarest form of sanctuary.
When social and political tensions began to climb across the U.S. last year, IMIRJ formed a Portland Sanctuary Cohort, and more are forming across Oregon.
During the past six months, Concordia’s Leaven Community Center has been IMIRJ’s meeting point for the local sanctuary movement to develop local leadership to resist unjust immigration policy.
Each month between February and July, Portland Sanctuary Cohort convened about 100 volunteer leaders from 24 faith communities to build our capacity to take coordinated action for immigrant justice.
At these dynamic gatherings, we shared our experiences and questions, received training, and we built our congregational and personal capacity. They were a combination of action, coaching and spiritual underpinnings.
Located on Killingsworth Street, Leaven is a four-year-old nonprofit at the former Redeemer Lutheran Church. It is now an intentional community of neighbors and friends rooted in building relationships through sharing stories and acting collectively.
Leaven, which includes Salt & Light Lutheran Church, is on a similar journey to many other congregations across Oregon, and is actively exploring what resistance to unjust immigration laws could look like.
In July we gathered to share our migration stories, followed by meetings on physical sanctuary in August and September.
Leaven will formally make our sanctuary declaration Oct. 15.
“As we listened to our neighbors’ stories and developed relationships, we could not ignore the fear and real threat our immigrant neighbors and members face,” explained Pastor Melissa Reed.
“That’s what happens when we listen to one another intentionally, truly see and know one another, find our own stories in the others’, fall in love with one another,” she added.
“Suddenly, your life is not separate from my own. Stranger becomes neighbor. Neighbor becomes family. Risk becomes natural. We belong to one another. We are more powerful together.”
Sanctuary is a powerful vision that is unfolding in our neighborhood. Find your way to create a community that is welcoming for immigrants and refugees. Whether it is through a congregation, IMIRJ or another path, there are many ways to get involved.
Rita is a Concordia resident who worships at Salt and Light Lutheran Church, a part of the Leaven community. She also serves on the board of IMIRJ. She’s passionate about social justice, yoga and organic gardening.