On Friday April 6th, Irida Kakhtiranova – a western Massachusetts wife to a U.S. citizen and mother of three U.S. citizen children – entered into sanctuary at the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence. The Unitarian Society, in collaboration with the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, is supporting Irida, a restaurant worker and sole wage earner in her family. Irida came to the United States from her native Russia in 2003 and now faces deportation. She has requested sanctuary while she fights her deportation case. A press conference will be held on Tuesday, April 10 at the Unitarian Society, 220 Main Street, at 2PM.

The Society’s decision to offer sanctuary followed a Dec. 10 congregational vote that approved a resolution declaring its willingness to offer physical sanctuary to someone in need. The vote came after a three-month discernment process during which members attended listening circles and information sessions held to educate the membership on what it means to become a sanctuary congregation. At the congregational meeting, there was robust and respectful discussion, after which the members present approved the resolution with an 89 percent margin.

During the discernment process, members determined that they felt called by our faith, mission, values and principles to take this step. Members expressed their belief that it is imperative to resist the persecution and deportation of immigrants that are currently tearing up families all over the country. Houses of worship historically have played a role in providing sanctuary to those in need.

Contacts: Rev. Janet Bush 413-584-1390; Laurie Loisel, Congregation President 413-374-7604