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Title: From support to solidarity : refugees' interactions with church communities in London
Author: Sutton, Mary
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2017
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This study explores the role of church communities in the everyday lives of refugees in London. It is concerned with how refugees’ interactions with church communities contribute to their strategies to establish community and home in new geographical locations. Such a study makes an important contribution to understanding how refugees, as social agents, actively seek solutions for their lives and how civil society responds to refugees at a time when states are failing to fulfil their obligations to them. This research adopts a lived religion approach which recognises the importance of the agency of individuals and collectivities such as church communities, as well as the power of organisational actors such as religious institutions. The idea of religion as lived experience allows for consideration of the way religion can cross boundaries through the everyday strategies of individuals. Consequently, in-depth interviews with refugees, clergy and laity were a very important source of data for this study. Data was also collected and recorded during ethnographic fieldwork which took place in 2013 in churches and refugee centres across the city of London. The evidence from this study showed that finding a place of belonging is the most important objective in refugees’ choice of church communities even if it means crossing the boundaries of Christian denominations or of religious faith to achieve this. The evidence also revealed that church communities go beyond filling the gap in state welfare provision by providing refugees with access to social networks and to advocates who can represent them in acts of solidarity. The first of two main conclusions drawn from this study is that the opportunity for refugees to choose and act in the social context of church communities counteracts the disenfranchisement that is often experienced by them in other areas of life. Secondly, when solidarity with refugees is based on notions of common humanity then hospitality is given to the Other as an equal thus reducing the risk of a dominant group merely accommodating and tolerating the stranger.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral