Class Close-Up: Sanctuary

Teacher Associate professor of religion Shaun Marmon *90

Focus This freshman seminar explores the history and cultural significance of the concepts of “sanctuary” and “welcoming the stranger.” It begins in ancient Greece and Rome — with criminals and other ostracized people who sought refuge with churches and intercessors — and continues to today’s “New Sanctuary Movement” and the immigration debate in Washington. Students are required to complete a service project.

“A sanctuary is a last-ditch effort,” Marmon said. “Nobody wants to live in a church. It’s done to buy time to negotiate for people, and it has certainly been done to make a political statement as an act of protest.”

Civic engagement The class is partnering with the Princeton municipal human-services department and the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund to expand legal resources for undocumented Princeton residents. The goal is to create a database for residents seeking legal representation.

“Many of these people are already a part of our community here in Princeton,” Marmon said. “They’ve been living here for many years. Their children are going to school here. They’re working in Princeton … they’re part of our community and they are living increasingly in fear under Donald Trump.”

On the syllabus The Odyssey by Homer, The Suppliants by Aeschylus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, passages from the Bible and the Quran, Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat.

Key takeaway “A sense of empowerment,” Marmon said. “That if you care about the community and you care about issues that you think really matter, you can do something about it.”