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The Refugee Crisis and Religion

The Refugee Crisis and Religion

Luca Mavelli | Erin Wilson


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The current refugee crisis sweeping Europe, and much of the world, closely intersects with largely neglected questions of religion. Moving beyond discussions of religious differences, what can we learn about the interaction between religion and migration? Do faith-based organisations play a role within the refugee regime? How do religious traditions and perspectives challenge and inform current practices and policies towards refugees? This volume gathers together expertise from academics and practitioners, as well as migrant voices, in order to investigate these interconnections. It shows that reconsidering our understanding and approaches to both could generate creative alternative responses to the growing global migration crisis. Beginning with a discussion of the secular/religious divide - and how it shapes dominant policy practices and counter approaches to displacement and migration - the book then goes on to explore and deconstruct the dominant discourse of the Muslim refugee as a threat to the secular/Christian West. The discussion continues with an exploration of Christian and Islamic traditions of hospitality, showing how they challenge current practices of securitization of migration, and concludes with an investigation of the largely unexplored relation between gender, religion and migration. Bringing together leading and emerging voices from across academia and practice, in the fields of International Relations, migration studies, philosophy, religious studies and gender studies, this volume offers a unique take on one of the most pressing global problems of our time.
Dr Luca Mavelli is Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent, UK. He is the author of Europe’s Encounter with Islam: The Secular and the Postsecular (Routledge 2012), and the coeditor of The Postsecular in International Relations (2012 Special Issue of the Review of International Studies) and of Towards a Postsecular International Politics: New Forms of Community, Identity, and Power (Palgrave, 2014). His articles have appeared in the European Journal of International Relations, Review of International Studies, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, International Politics, Critical Studies on Terrorism, Journal of Religion in Europe, and Teaching in Higher Education.

Dr Erin K. Wilson is the Director of the Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Groningen since January 2012. She has published on religion and global justice, globalization, active citizenship and the politics of asylum in International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Refugee Studies, Global Society, Globalizations and Politics, Religion, Ideology. Her books include After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics, and Justice Globalism: Ideology, Crises, Policy, co-authored with Manfred B. Steger and James Goodman (Palgrave, 2014).
The Refugee Crisis and Religion is an important and timely book. The world is experiencing an unabated growth in the numbers of desperate refugees and internally displaced persons. At the same time, lamentably, it is also experiencing an increasing reluctance by States to meet their treaty obligations to protect those fleeing persecution. What role does religion – both that of those living in potential host countries and that of the refugees – play? How has the issue of religion played out in the securitization of the refugee regime? This book explores these questions and many more, from a multiplicity of perspectives. It aims for illumination of these difficult issues – the resolution of which can mean life or death for those seeking a safe haven.
Karen Musalo, Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, UC Hastings, San Francisco
This is a timely and valuable collection for anyone wishing to think seriously about the refugee crisis beyond the banal and dangerous claims about “religious terrorism” and “civilizational incompatibility.” An excellent Introduction by the editors articulates the questions, theoretical and practical, that underlie the contributions. The Refugee Crisis and Religion should be required reading for all who respond to people in need of humanitarian assistance.
Talal Asad, Emeritus Distinguished Professor, Graduate Center of the City University of New York
This accessible volume of essays brings together a diverse range of voices and themes to explore the complex relationship between religion, violence, the nation state and migration. Contributions from academics and practitioners alike make this indispensable reading for anyone seeking a deeper appreciation of how the global movement of people has once again reignited the cultural and political tensions around the Islam/West debate.
Mona Siddiqui, Professor, Islamic and Interreligious Studies, University of Edinburgh
The theoretical framework of post-secularism as elaborated here is a useful resource for that—with the premise to take greater account for “religion and rights”—as the universal Kantian principle of right that has been fundamental to the thought of Habermas. Secular right and religious motivation should not oppose, but support each other in order to control anger and to raise awareness.
By bringing together religion and migration, this volume addresses – as Wilson and Mavelli aptly put it – the most obvious dimension of the so-called migration crisis and the biggest elephant in the room. The religio-civilisational divides through which migration is perceived are subject here to intense scrutiny from post-secular perspectives. The result is both incisive critique and refreshingly human stories of endurance, hospitality and faith as much as hardship, hostility and prejudice. The volume achieves this unusual breadth by combining academic voices with those of migrants, advocates and activists. Drawing from diverse frontlines of crisis and critique, this edited collection will inspire and provoke those of us grappling with the contradictions, the hopes and the horrors that are bound up with the intersection of religion, secularism and migration.
Anne McNevin, Associate Professor of Politics, The New School, New York
The current displacement crisis requires new and creative responses - responses that address the diversity of needs within the refugee population; responses that encourage all of us - political leaders, media commentators, policy makers, ordinary citizens - to recognise our common humanity across religious, political, economic, ethnic and cultural divisions. This book is an essential resource for developing such creative, inclusive responses.
Merete Bilde, European External Action Service
Under a surgeon’s knife we are all the same. Out of anaesthetic we revert to creed, colour, place and politics. This much we know. These essays force the thinking on what we actually do with our identity and the identity of others. Secular or religious the challenge is the same; we must answer the question, consciously, what now?
Nic Coombs, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
In examining the entanglement of ‘religion’ and the ‘refugee crisis’, this book takes us beyond the conceptual to practical outworking and hears from those with lived experience of forced migration. The book launches fresh thinking from grassroots to global perspectives around notions of ‘Muslim refugee’, hospitality and fear of ‘other’.
Jo Knight, Advocacy Coordinator, TEAR Australia, and former immigration lawyer
The issue of global refugees - or, somewhat pejoratively, ‘migrants’ - is an international scandal. Despite early optimism, the key impact of the Arab Spring was not to provoke a 'fourth wave of democracy'; instead, it stimulated a huge wave of desperate people seeking to escape seemingly endless turmoil, repression and despair. This outstanding book, edited by two fast-rising stars of the 'religion and politics' genre, makes riveting reading. It brings together scholars, practitioners and refugees, providing a comprehensive overview of the relationship between refugees and religion in the current world. No one reading it, including policy makers, could remain indifferent to the crisis it depicts so graphically.
Jeffrey Haynes, Professor of Politics, London Metropolitan University
This book offers a timely and important engagement with one of the most pressing issues of our time: the links between refugees, conflict and religion. Questioning the traditional divide between secularism and religion, the contributors compellingly show how policy responses to refugee crises are often very narrowly defined around security concerns and fail to grapple with larger human and humanitarian responsibilities. Indispensable reading for both scholars and practitioners.
Roland Bleiker, Professor of International Relations, University of Queensland
Mavelli and Wilson provide a timely, vital analysis of the crucial relationship between religion and refugees. This important book is just what the world needs at this moment. The book should be required reading for all the politicians and pundits who claim Islam is a violent religion or that Western nations should not accept Muslim refugees. The Refugee Crisis and Religion compellingly challenges accepted wisdom by combining rigorous scrutiny of the entanglements of contemporary migration and religion with incisive empirical examples of refugees and those practitioners serving them.
Alex Stepick, Portland State University & Florida International University