Not too long ago, leaders from the Roswell Community Masjid, Temple Beth Tikvah, and community members from Unitarian Universalist Metro Atlanta North gathered at the Unitarian Universalist church in Roswell, Georgia to discuss the New Sanctuary Movement of Atlanta (NSMA). The NSMA is a multicultural, interfaith immigrant rights organization that encourages a number of communities of different faiths and organizations to unite for the common cause to support the immigrants of the community.
Regardless of their immigration status, the New Sanctuary Movement of Atlanta works towards ending injustices against immigrants by creating a community inclusive of all faiths, ethnicities, and classes while ensuring that hospitality, compassion, dignity, and justice are practiced and carried out through policies.
The Minister of the church opened by introducing Pastor Tom Hagood of Columbia Presbyterian of Atlanta and Meghan Visal who has been key in the organization of NSMA.
“When I see immigrants, I see the future of our country- and it’s always been that way”, expresses Haygood. “We believe in advocacy, we believe in walking along with the immigrants”.
Hagood also informed the audience that the organization has not only been involved in gun violence issues but also in the assistance of Burmese refugees who are now members of their church. When Visal and Hagood began to take notice of the growing immigrant crisis, they turned to other churches and faith communities that had already been involved in aiding the issue. From them, they were able to find a direction which led to the formation of an organization made up of 20-25 faith communities and other organizations.
The organization stressed the importance of showing love through action and through the advocating for laws that support immigrants in our country. Additionally, it was emphasized that though we may come from different faiths, it is clear in our religious texts that it is our responsibility as a community to care for the marginalized, alienated, and the oppressed.
“We need the diversity here in our country or else we’re going to lose our edge.”
Though the churches do not currently host them, they are working towards becoming places of sanctuary for the immigrants. For example, the Columbia Presbyterian of Atlanta currently offers a temporary housing option for newly released detainees of the Stewart Detention Center through El Refugio, a center for a non-profit organization located nearby. By staying at the church, the person is allowed time to re-organize their lives and get back on their feet or wait for any family that may be traveling a great distance to pick them up.
A few of the organizations that currently work with the NSMA highlighted were Freedom University, Georgia Detention Watch, and the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. Currently, those interested in taking action can do so by taking court watch training, traveling to the Stewart Detention Center, and donating deportation bags which supply an immigrant being deported with as many clothes and supplies as they are allowed in their travel.