CORRESPONDENCErnLetter From Tucsonrnby Chilton Williamson, Jr.rnSanctity & SanctuaryrnFrom the barrio of South Tucson, thernTucson Mountains appeared clean andrnsharp like hammered copper on a clearrnmorning following the equipata or winterrnrains, nearly the season’s last; thernglassy towers downtown held the sky reflectedrnin squares of wavery unnaturalrnblue. The university students were onrnspring break and already the snowbirdsrnwere flying north, emptying the hundredsrnof square miles of retirement villages,rntrailer parks. Active Adult communities,rnand golf links; within six weeksrnthe population of greater Tucson wouldrnhave dropped from around seven hundredrnthousand to four hundred and fiftyrnthousand people. In the Southside barrios,rnno one was likely to know the difference.rnThree-Seventeen West Twenty-ThirdrnStreet was in a neighborhood of crumblingrnadobe houses, shacks, rotting pancakernpear, and collapsing fences. At 9:30rnon a Sunday morning, dark men in strawrnhats sat in vacant lots under rusty palmrntrees drinking beer, and middle-agedrnCaucasians with their hair in pigtails,rnwearing faded military clothes and carryingrnpacks on their backs, walked thernempty streets. A sign outside said “Esternes sanctuario de Dios para los opprimidosrnde Centra America”; another beside it,rn”Southside Presbyterian Church.” A nylonrntent was pitched in the churchyardrnand a line hung with clothes stretchedrnacross the grass. Cars stood tightlyrnparked along the curb and in the adjacentrnstreets, and the church parking lotrnwas filled.rnSouthside Presbyterian Church andrnits pastor, the Reverend John M. Fife,rnare the seed from which the sanctuaryrnmovement has developed since the latern1970’s. Sanctuary, operating on thernmodel of the Underground Railroadrnin antebellum days, illegally receivesrnrefugees from Latin and Central America,rnparticularly Guatemala and El Salvador,rnand passes them along from onernsanctuary church to another across thernUnited States and Canada. Sanctuaryrnargues that Washington, having fomentedrnpolitical violence by its antirevolutionaryrnpolicies, must take responsibilityrnfor the victims of counterrevolutionrnby accepting them as politicalrnrefugees to the United States; therngovernment insists that they are not politicalrnbut economic refugees, and thatrnits responsibility is to control the country’srnborders and to implement its immigrationrnlaws. On May 1, 1986, thernconviction in Tucson’s federal court ofrneight sanctuary activists, including thernReverend Fife, helped to cap the movement’srnnational prominence.rnAn elderly black man, formallyrndressed in a dark coat and necktie, stoodrndistributing programs outside the packedrnmeeting hall, shabby whitewashed adobernpainted blue up front. Chairs were arrangedrnon both sides of the building,rnagainst the back wall facing the pulpitrnand, behind it, the cross—seven or eightrnfeet tall and constructed from roughenedrnunpainted timbers. The congregationrnincluded some elderly, staid,rnrather prim-looking couples, a few Mexicans,rnand a number of Central Americansrnseated cross-legged on the floor behindrnthe pulpit. The rest were mostlyrnmen with graying beards and grayingrnlong hair and their women in long-skirtedrnprint dresses and shawls. A fat blackrnwoman, spectacled and with a looprnof pearls on her wide bosom, sat onrna benchseat behind the piano. Shernseemed bursting with energy and lookedrnready to throw her instrument at therncongregation.rnThe Reverend Fife was a very tall manrnwith iron-gray hair and a close grayrnbeard, tanned face, and glasses. In hisrnLenten robes he appeared to standrnabove the cross, which he nearly obliteratedrnby his presence. He was speakingrnin English as I entered the church andrnpaused behind the final row of chairs.rnA hymn was sung in Spanish, and whenrnthe people had subsided in their seatsrnFife stood forward from the pulpit.rn”Who among you here today has beenrn’born again’?” he demanded.rnA few hands went up, and the ReverendrnFife smiled upon these ironically.rn”What is it about those words, ‘bornrnagain,’ that make so many of us—Presbyterians,rnCatholics, and others—uncomfortable?rnIt’s that they have beenrnappropriated by a very narrow segmentrnof Christianity to mean people who arernagainst communism, against abortion,rnagainst change. But that isn’t what beingrnborn again means to us, is it? It betterrnnot be!” the Reverend Fife cried.rn”What do people mean when theyrnspeak of the ‘old-time religion’? Theyrnmean the religion of a day that is gone,rnwhen religion was the support of an unjustrnsystem, and the privileged class thatrnowned the system was religious! Whilernwhat we mean by being born again is tornrealize how the culture and the societyrncorrupt our values and corrupt us,rnand to turn away from those values andrnfrom that society.” The Reverend Fifernshowed the points of his white teeth inrnan expression that appeared to be arnsmile.rnThe congregation sang another hymn,rnand then a Latin man rose and playedrnbriefly on a kind of wind instrument; hernwas followed by the black woman at thernpiano singing “Amazing Grace” in thernstyle of a Negro revival. After the firstrnverse the people joined in and finishedrnthe remaining ones with her. A Spanishrngentleman in a gray suit came forwardrnand translated for a very dark young Salvadoranrnwho wished to thank SouthsidernPresbyterian for its support and shelter.rnWhen he had spoken two other Salvadoransrnrose to express their gratitude,rnmoving the Reverend Fife to exclaim:rn”See? We’re ‘born again’—we just sangrn’Amazing Grace’ and now we’re havingrntestimonials!” A visitor to SouthsidernPresbyterian pointed out that “AmazingrnGrace” had been written by a searncaptain aboard his slaver when “he realizedrnthat he was part of a system herndidn’t want to be part of anymore” andrnturned his vessel around. Another visitor,rnlike the first an inhabitant of thernUpper Midwest, announced: “The folksrnat St. Luke’s say hello!”rnVarious people stood to make otherrnannouncements. A tweedy-looking manrnreminded the congregation of thernThursday prayer vigil at the federalrnbuilding downtown, “with which”—addressingrnthe Reverend Fife—”you are familiar!”rn”I am well acquainted with it,”rnFife acknowledged, displaying his teeth.rnSomeone else brought up a potluck dinnerrnat which the Southside delegationrnto the presidential elections in Nicaraguarnwas expected to report what it had witnessedrnin Managua, and a woman gavern42/CHRONICLESrnrnrn