In the aftermath of the President Donald Trump’s controversial executive action to suspend the United States’ refugee program and restrict entry to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries, faith leaders in our state are coming together to revisit the idea of sanctuary congregations.
“We are refugees,” Rabbi Herbert Brockman, of Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden, said. “I cannot imagine turning our backs, particularly at a time of need.”
Brockman said the idea of the sanctuary being a place of refuge and safety is as old as biblical times.
“In modern times, we believe that the congregations at churches and synagogues, in particular, could be places where people could come and be safe,” he said.
Trump issued a statement amid the protests, claiming his executive order is not a "Muslim ban" and blaming the media for portraying it as so.
"To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting," the statement read. "This is not about religion - this is about terror and keeping our country safe."
Brockman is leading the initiative for congregations to provide assistance to people at risk of deportation or government action.
Brockman said he began discussing the idea with other faith leaders shortly after the presidential election.
“It means that we as an institution commit ourselves to going with them to deportation hearings,” Brockman said. “That, if necessary, we would provide legal assistance, financial assistance to the families that may be no longer able to work because they now face deportation.”
The congregation took in a family of Syrian refugees Thursday, hours before the executive order that would’ve barred them from entering the country.
Brockman called the suspension of the refugee program unconscienable and added that now, more than ever, leaders need to step up to help those in need.
“We’ve got to be there for these people. Just seeing them, it’s so sad,” Brockman said.
Approximately 40 congregations are expected to participate in a training on Feb. 19 about what it means to be a sanctuary congregation.