A sanctuary is a sacred place - or the most sacred part of a sacred place - such as a grove, temple, church, or mosque. From early times sanctuaries were regarded as places of refuge or asylum for those fleeing violence or the law. In Europe, throughout and beyond the Middle Ages, Christian churches were places of sanctuary for fugitives and criminals. From this practice stems the custom of diplomatic asylum and Extraterritoriality. Today many nations grant political asylum or sanctuary, denying Extradition, to certain individuals. In the 1980s a "sanctuary movement" involving a number of U S churches offered refuge to illegal aliens from Central America.
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Sanctuary denotes, (1) the Holy Land (Ex. 15:17; comp. Ps. 114:2); (2) the temple (1 Chr. 22:19; 2 Chr. 29:21); (3) the tabernacle (Ex. 25:8; Lev. 12:4; 21: 12); (4) the holy place, the place of the Presence (Gr. hieron, the temple-house; not the naos, which is the temple area, with its courts and porches), Lev. 4:6; Eph. 2:21, R.V., marg.; (5) God's holy habitation in heaven (Ps. 102:19). In the final state there is properly "no sanctuary" (Rev. 21:22), for God and the Lamb "are the sanctuary" (R.V., "temple"). All is there hallowed by the Divine Presence; all is sancturary.
(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)
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