“Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” The hunchback screamed over the clamorous throngs of people. He pled for mercy on behalf of the unconscious, but beautiful damsel.
I was a young woman watching an old movie, “The Hunchback from Notre Dame.” As the deformed recluse’s hoarse voice amplified through our TV, I experienced the intense meaning of *the plea for sanctuary.* Like a machete freshly honed to a razor-like finish, it carved an impression which promised to endure forever in my spirit. The piteous cry of that pathetic man, thrown away by society, now a hero, pierced my youthful emotions. Now, a half century later, that word has not lost its acute power and reverberates through my soul, like drums echoing on distant hills, throbbing in cadence with the uneven beats of my saddened but not broken heart.
The ambiguity of the word, sanctuary, (a place of refuge or safety) is profound from every angle. In this movie, an unlikely hero saves a maiden’s life by kidnapping her and begging for mercy from the Roman Catholic Church. It was a policy of the church, that anyone who cried *sanctuary* within the boundaries of the church, was adopted by the church and escape the clutches of whatever evil was threatening to devour them. To remain under the protection of the church, the refugee must work inside the church, remain cloistered for the rest of their lives and stay within the confines of the church, never leaving to see loved ones or return to their home. The corrupt powers that be, quickly created a law to circumvent that process.
Now, I am an old woman, I see countries in turmoil with millions of people seeking asylum. It is a horrific problem that has no clear solution, except for the phrase I have heard, “Damned if we do and damned if we don’t!”
The difference in sanctuary and asylum is the fact that there are no requirements or expectations demanded from the refugees.
Churches have morphed, in that most of them are no longer a place of sanctuary for *sinners* (which encompasses everyone). The wounded in spirit, seek be loved, adopted and nurtured, but some presumptuous people have taken it upon themselves to become the judge, jury and executioner of those who dare to believe differently. How can that be? We all live in glass houses!
Feeling safe is nearly extinct. Now, women hug their purses to their chest and be careful where they park. In their own homes, people set up nanny cams, lock their doors and windows and arm themselves to ward off intruders. Even telephones are used to breach the barriers of our homes to do us harm.
Our homes are our sanctuary where we should feel secure. Our children should feel safe. Like the hierarchies of England, laws have been passed in America to punish parents of lawbreakers. If a child who has broken the law, seeks the safety in the home of their parents, the parents can be arrested for offering sanctuary to their child. That is a shame! It is a crime that needs to be challenged. A wife and a husband cannot testify against each other, neither should parents carry the burden of being partners with those who seek to harm their children.
We live in an ever changing world.