Research What Are You Reading...On Sanctuary

What Are You Reading…On Sanctuary

This morning, while I was attending a service at a local Unitarian Church, a person mentioned how they felt safe and welcome while at the Church. This was distinguished from how they have felt recently when out in public, where they said their mood has in general turned from being cautiously optimistic to worried about the future. In describing their feelings, they said that they felt a renewed appreciation for the meaning of the word ‘sanctuary.’

In reflecting on her statement, I was reminded of times in my life when I was undergoing something stressful, and how important it was to me to have the support of communal institutions where I could go for rest, relief, and understanding. Given the tenseness of society recently, I feel that these places are in need more than ever. This is not to say that the frustrations, anger, and worries plaguing people in our society should be stifled (quite the contrary), but rather that the two go hand in hand. At their best, places of sanctuary can provide people with a place to reflect on their actions and reconsider whether they were right. Similarly, they can help those who are in trouble develop a plan of action. When tenseness is all that exists, very little reflection and thought can occur. Just as democracy does not work when there is no discussion, it similarly does not work well when there is so much shouting that no communication actually takes place.

The following works highlight the utility of places of sanctuary, and discuss their proper role in modern life.


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  1. I find it ironic that certain Americans are claiming to be oh so worried! and oh so stressed! over the Trump election victory—admittedly a big, big minor problem—when how many people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, and especially Syria, live under the constant threat of wholesale slaughter and instant death from US (Syrian, Russian, Saudi etc.) bombing and US drone strikes, which were launched by the Obama/Clinton/Kerry administration, and which obviously wouldn’t have been stopped, no matter who won the election. I just watched a video of the last hospital in East Aleppo being bombed out of existence; and there were the usual international press pictures of President Obama expressing his concern to Vladimir Putin. But the Obama administration, which purportedly supported the Syrian uprising, has done nothing to stop the massacre; and when Syrian doctors wrote to Obama pleading for help, there was no response from the White House. At least John McCain has the spine to say “No waterboarding!” whether under Trump or Obama. You think you’re stressed? You think you’re worried? Think about the Syrians, the Iraqis, the Yemenis. And, next time, let’s have a presidential candidate who actually wants to stop this stupid, murderous war.

  2. It should be clear that many Americans are worried about Trump precisely because of the violence that this man is likely to inflict on the rest of the world. While recent U.S. Presidents have taken actions that harm folk in the countries you mention, it is not far-fetched to think Trump will exacerbate these problems considerably.


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