According to the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees, a refugee is an individual who is in another country due to having a legitimate fear of persecution based on factors such as race, religion, nationality, membership in a certain social group, or political opinion. They are either unwilling or unable to seek protection from their home country.
Refugees have three options: returning home, integrating into the local community where they sought refuge, or being resettled in a different country. Resettlement involves choosing and transporting refugees from the country where they sought protection to a third nation that agrees to grant them refugee status and permanent residency.
The term "refugee relocation" generally refers to the process of adapting and adjusting during the early stages. There is no specific timeframe for relocation and no consensus on how long it should take for a refugee to assimilate or fully integ...
rate into their host society.
The process of refugee resettlement involves addressing the needs of refugees, including their ability to adapt and the attitudes of the host population. Successful resettlement depends on individual characteristics and circumstances. It is crucial to initially address basic needs such as housing, social services access, assistance, and mental support. However, newcomers often face linguistic and cultural differences that require time for adjustment.
This study seeks to examine how Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) contribute to refugee resettlement in the United States by investigating the role of faith in shaping the nature and effectiveness of this process.
It is important to consider refugee relocation in a global context and work towards enhancing and reorganizing the process of resettling refugees. The United States has consistently shown commitment to accepting refugees since 1945, having
welcomed over 3 million individuals (Haines, 1996). In 2000 alone, more than 72,000 refugees were granted entry into the United States (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 2000). However, this figure significantly decreased to only 26,765 after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
The number of refugees admitted to the U.S. started increasing in 2004 and reached 74,602 in 2009. Faith-Based Organizations have played a crucial role in providing assistance to those in need and are valuable contributors to global emergency relief efforts. Christians, Muslims, and other religious groups believe that showing kindness is a way of life and a form of devotion to God. Consequently, Christians, Jews, and Muslims share similar motivations for their humanitarian actions based on their religious beliefs (Ferris, 2005). This study aims to address the information gap concerning the impact of Faith Based Organizations and religion on refugee resettlement.
The study aimed to collect information on Faith-Based Organizations in refugee relocation. This involved providing factual and illustrative information on their role in the relocation process and demonstrating their connection to the mental and physical aspects of relocation. The review had several objectives, including helping interested parties gain a comprehensive understanding of the refugee relocation process, summarizing key factors and barriers that affect relocation, informing the government and other stakeholders about refugees and Faith-Based Organizations, providing information for the development of relocation policy, and supporting Faith-Based Organizations in improving their services to refugees while also developing a new research plan.
Researchers have conducted studies on how faith and spirituality provide cognitive and emotional support, establish group identity, and promote relocation. This paper presents a summary of literature review findings as well as interview results
from some refugees and refugee workers. The research will primarily focus on selected refugee interviews.
The data obtained from the interviewees will enhance the understanding of this paper and support the findings of the literature review. The paper examines refugee relocation demands through a literature review and a questionnaire. The literature review consists of research conducted by various scholars, while the questionnaire comprises open-ended inquiries that allow participants to freely express themselves.
To conduct the interview, a refugee and a staff member from a refugee relocation organization were randomly selected. Both participants willingly agreed to participate in the interview.
Analysis of the data reveals that refugee mental health is affected by social displacement, withdrawal, and estrangement. These experiences result in emotional stress, financial difficulties, and practical challenges. For instance, adapting to a different lifestyle and family system, as well as traditions divergent from their original practices, is necessary for maintaining familial relationships and caring for children. Forced migration has also caused refugees to suffer from various types of trauma.
Refugees often face vulnerability, violence, torture, and rape, as well as the loss of their resources. Resettling can be difficult for refugees without a strong cultural community. This is especially true for certain groups affected by religious and political divisions that create hostility within refugee communities in new countries. Muslims in the United States encounter similar challenges due to misconceptions and the historical association of Islam with religious violence. State polls during the 1990s revealed negative views towards Muslims among many Americans who perceived them as dangerous and anti-democratic.
Discrimination in the workplace can result in mental health problems for refugees. FBOs, or faith-based organizations, choose to relocate based on their
religious affiliation's values and practices while also being accepting of other faiths. When relocating, FBOs incorporate their religious ethics but still strive to achieve organizational objectives. They give importance to their religious mission without forcing it upon the refugees they assist, who may have diverse religious backgrounds.
They serve as a tool to mobilize spiritual networks, reinforcing the importance of other spiritual group members in assisting refugees, and providing refugees with a choice to get involved spiritually or not. In an interview with Atseda, a refugee from Ethiopia, she emphasized the crucial role played by FBOs in her relocation; `` I don't know what I would have done, my daughter and family are in Ethiopia. I felt relief when I got here but living in a world of my own made me cry most times. It felt like my situation was the worst. I was resettled by a church and the only person I know was Sara, who was a case worker with the organization. She introduced me to an Ethiopian woman whom I still consider as my best friend and family.
While attending church, I had the opportunity to meet fellow Ethiopians and freely speak my native language without the fear of being misunderstood. Speaking English is a daily struggle for me, as others often have difficulty understanding me. The highlight of my week is going to church on Sundays; it has become my sanctuary, reminiscent of Ethiopia. Even though I rarely attended church back in Ethiopia, only on special occasions like weddings or other events, my faith and belief have grown significantly here in America because I believe that God has a purpose for
everything that happens.
I have also accepted this as my destiny. I adore my church; the members are always eager to help. They have generously provided me with clothing and furniture for my home. Atseda demonstrates comfort and reliance on faith, which she says has aided both her mental and physical adjustment. In an interview with Mengesha, an Ethiopian who collaborates with the Ethiopia Community Development Council, she emphasized the significance of religion in ensuring a smooth transition for newly resettled refugees.
Mengesha points out that the council supports refugees from Catholic charity, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Muslims are directed to mosques and Muslim communities so they can freely observe their religion and uphold their principles. This approach is adopted as these particular communities provide a sense of comfort, resulting in improved mental and physical well-being for the refugees.
Research conducted by Weine et al. in 1995 reveals that numerous refugees, including Bosnian refugees, encounter symptoms associated with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Nevertheless, these individuals find solace and fortitude in their faith, which aids them in navigating challenging circumstances. Faith Based Organizations assume a vital role by offering not only spiritual support but also tangible aid to these individuals. Through facilitating a connection with their familiar faith, these organizations foster spirituality and enhance their ability to cope and maintain mental resilience.
According to Gozdziak (2002), sixty percent of major relocation bureaus in the United States have a religious affiliation. He also noted that faith and spirituality were crucial in alleviating the suffering of Albanians who fled from Kosovar in 1999. Gozdziak observed that "belief reduces emotional pain and stress associated with fear, anger, and uncertainty" (Godziak). Additionally, faith
provides individuals with a mental framework to navigate life's challenges and establish order while fostering group unity among those who share a common identity. This unity offers support, guidance, and connections within a social network (Burwell et al.).
The research conducted in 1986 focused on the relationship between religionism and refugee relocation. The goal was to gather descriptive information about religionism among Indo-Chinese individuals who had been resettled in the United States from 1980 to 1982 by a private and voluntary organization. Additionally, this study aimed to explore how religious beliefs influenced different aspects of refugee relocation and identify factors that could potentially affect changes in religious practices among relocated refugees.
This research was part of a larger evaluation of the social, economic, and psychological adaptation of Indo-Chinese refugees who were resettled through a national organization with a religious foundation. The researchers found that most refugees held beliefs in a higher power and engaged in some form of religious practice. However, they also observed differences between those with high levels of religionism and those with low levels regarding important areas such as social adjustment, mental health, and achievement orientation.
Individuals with a high level of religiosity exhibited significant differences in comparison to those with a low level. The more religious an individual was, the stronger their drive for accomplishment. According to Bolton from the National Center for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), refugees have a prevalence rate of PTSD that ranges from 4 to 86 percent. Sinclair (1993) stated that severe emotional trauma profoundly impacts an individual's religious convictions, thus making PTSD a spiritual condition. Sinclair categorized PTSD as a spiritual ailment because its complete effects result in the
loss of crucial religious principles such as hope, familiarity, future, peace, spontaneity, integrity, innocence, and trust - all essential components for leading a satisfying life.
In a study conducted by Weine et Al. (2004), it was discovered that refugees underwent shifts in their familial roles and obligations as a result of their religious beliefs. The research revealed that parents would actively engage in conversations about faith with their children and encourage them to participate in mosque activities. One participant expressed, "As a consequence of the war, our spirituality has been rekindled, leading us to reconnect with our religious practices."
During challenging times, it is crucial to seek support from both family and the Koran. One individual expressed their reliance on faith during moments of fear, particularly when facing home loss or the onset of war. A young person emphasized the significance of preserving their personal identity by reciting prayers before bedtime.
Returning to faith serves as a means to maintain a relationship with God, cultural tradition, and the Bosnian and Muslim community. Additionally, it helps preserve family unity and hierarchy by teaching value and behavioral systems centered around family. Shandy (2002) conducted a study examining the social and political role of Christianity in the experiences of forced migration. Specifically, the research focused on southern Sudanese refugees residing in the United States. Faith-Based Organizations played a crucial role in assisting these refugees in their relocation process, with Christian Churches in the United States facilitating their transition into a new society. By analyzing the interaction between Sudanese refugees, service providers, and American cultural norms, Shandy explored how the cultural beliefs of Christians influenced the integration of these newcomers into American
They also emphasized the need for further research on Nuer Christianity as a localized belief system that helps this community cope with extreme changes in their lives. Refugee material/physical needs
The 1997 overview by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) identified various constraints on relocation, including:
- lack of employment
- delays in family reunion
- language barrier
- lack of recognition of qualifications and experience, and
- poor integration programs with insufficient resources.
Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, other religious groups, and inter-faith partnerships have actively participated in refugee resettlement. They possess existing infrastructure and capacity that make them valuable partners. When a refugee is approved for relocation to the United States, their case file is referred to one of ten resettlement voluntary agencies, including six faith-based organizations, two secular organizations, and two ethnicity-based organizations. The case is then assigned to a branch office of the voluntary agency located across the United States.
The staff members of affiliate voluntary bureaus have the responsibility to welcome refugees at the airdrome, provide immediate guidance services, and handle Reception and Placement. Faith-based humanitarian organizations, such as Church World Service, often assist refugees and vulnerable individuals as part of their religious duty, as stated in the Christian, Muslim, and Judaic religious texts. These organizations adhere to specific principles, including providing assistance without any form of discrimination based on race, creed, or nationality, and not using assistance to promote political or religious beliefs. Staff members and partners strictly follow these principles and do not discriminate while providing humanitarian aid to refugees. Currently, churches co-sponsor refugee families regardless of their religious
or cultural backgrounds. This partnership is made possible thanks to the non-discriminatory principles upheld by humanitarian agencies. Faith-Based Organizations continue to play active roles in resettling a diverse range of refugees by co-sponsoring them in their communities.
Faith Based Organizations collaborate to support refugees through partnerships between different religious groups. Churches now collaborate with mosques, and Catholic and Protestant groups also work together. Secular and religious groups form partnerships, as well as inter-faith alliances, to jointly sponsor the relocation of refugees. In Minnesota, a CWS affiliate received a grant aimed at fostering partnerships between mosques and churches for the purpose of refugee relocation.
Advocacy needs for Refugees
Faith-Based Organizations ensure that new arrivals receive adequate and secure housing, necessary supplies, food allowances, and other essential necessities, including clothing. They also provide referrals to appropriate healthcare programs and testing, assistance in obtaining social security cards, and enrolling children in school. Additionally, they offer transportation to job interviews and job training (Eby et al., 2010). Faith-Based Organizations, along with religious leaders, actively advocate for the safety and protection of displaced individuals, even those who do not fit the definition of a refugee (Eby et al.).
, 2010). The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Friends World Committee for Consultation called for the United Nations Human Rights Commission to examine the concerns of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). This resulted in ten years of advocacy efforts that led to the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on IDPs and the creation of the U.N. Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in 1998 (Eby et al.
, 2010). Faith communities have also engaged in advocacy with
the U.S. government. The Food for Peace Bill/Public Law 480, which provides U.S. emergency food aid abroad, originated from a draft written by two staff members of CWS/Christian Rural Outreach in 1954. In the late 1970s, Haitians were denied refugee protections or political asylum in the United States after approximately 10,000 fled political instability.
Church World Service (CWS) and the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCCC) filed a lawsuit against the United States government on behalf of Haitian individuals who were denied protections. As a result of this legal action, CWS and NCCC were successful in securing legal protections for the Haitians. Additionally, CWS actively sought sponsors to assist with the integration of these individuals into local communities in the United States (Eby et al., 2010).
In 2010, Eby et Al. discussed the historical involvement of religious communities in advocating for and assisting with refugee relocation in the United States. Eby noted that Faith Based Organizations and faith denominations, through the CWS web and in collaboration with other organizations, called for an increase in the Reception and Placement Grant provided to refugees upon their arrival in the United States. They were successful in achieving this increase and continued to advocate for greater support for various marginalized groups in the United States, including refugees and IDPs.
CWS also played a role in shaping the Refugee Protection Act of 2010. On February 11, 2011, a coalition of faith-based groups, such as Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, wrote to Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, urging the department to halt the deportation of Haitians from the United States.
Faith organizations are actively advocating for a fair and compassionate immigration policy in
the United States. These organizations are working towards upholding human rights and social justice.
There are limitations to this survey, primarily due to the need for further research on the interaction between faith organizations and refugees of different religious backgrounds. It is crucial for this research to prioritize the perspective of the refugees themselves, rather than relying heavily on theoretical or literary claims made on their behalf.
FBOs are depicted as human-centered agencies in the literature, adhering to non-discrimination based on faith. However, it is necessary to determine if this portrayal holds true in reality. This research lacks sufficient information regarding the number of interviewees; further research is needed to help interested parties fully understand the refugee relocation process and educate government officials and policymakers on the role of faith in deporting Haitians from the United States. Faith organizations continue to advocate for humane and fair immigration policy in the United States, as they strive for human rights and social justice.
There are limitations to this study, primarily due to the need for additional research on the relationship between FBOs and refugees with diverse religious beliefs.
The research needs to focus more on the refugee's perspective rather than theory or literature claiming to speak on their behalf. FBOs are portrayed as humanitarian agencies in the literature, committed to non-discrimination based on religion. However, it is necessary to investigate if this is true in reality. This research has limited information about the number of people interviewed; further research should be conducted to enhance understanding of the refugee relocation process and educate government and policy makers about the role of faith and Faith Based Organizations in aiding refugees.
While Faith Based Organizations in the United States have been involved with refugee relocation, they have also created a conducive environment that facilitates relocation for refugees.
Faith Based Organizations, regardless of faith, have been instrumental in aiding refugees from various backgrounds in the United States. Religion, the foundation of these organizations, has greatly contributed to the mental well-being of refugees. The belief systems of churches, mosques, and other faiths have motivated their members to provide tangible assistance to refugees. Hence, Faith Based Organizations play a crucial role in supporting and advocating for refugees.
Social workers and other individuals involved in refugee relocation should recognize the significance of faith. It is crucial for these workers to utilize faith in addressing the physical, material, and mental needs of refugees. Overall, the impact of Faith Based Organizations on refugee communities in the United States is evident from interviews conducted and literature reviewed. These organizations play a valuable role in facilitating refugee relocation.
Faith Based Organizations in the United States have not only been involved in refugee relocation but have also created a supportive environment that eases the relocation process for refugees. These organizations have proven to be highly beneficial for refugees from diverse faiths, societies, cultures, and races within the United States.
Religion, the foundation of Faith Based Organizations, has greatly enhanced the emotional well-being of refugees. The belief system has served as a platform for various faith-based communities, such as churches and mosques, to provide practical assistance to refugees. Faith Based Organizations play a crucial role in offering support and advocating for refugees. Social workers and other professionals working with refugees must recognize the significance of faith in their resettlement process.
It is essential for workers involved in refugee relocation to incorporate faith in meeting both the material and psychological needs of refugees.
After conducting interviews and reviewing literature, it is evident that Faith Based Organizations have had a significant impact on refugee communities throughout the United States.
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