The Refugee Hosts project is delighted to launch a new report titled “Religion and Social Justice for Refugees: Insights from Cameroon, Greece, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia and Mexico”. This report identifies and examines the roles that faith plays in supporting social justice for refugees.


This major report, made possible through the generous support of the British Council’s Bridging Voices programme, is the result of two years of collaboration between the Refugee Hosts project and colleagues at Yale University.

The report offers fresh insights into the roles played by faith-based actors and local faith communities in contexts of displacement in diverse contexts around the world. Drawing on over 300 in-depth interviews with refugees, members of local host communities and locally based organisations in towns, cities and camps in Cameroon, Greece, Malaysia, Mexico, Lebanon and Jordan, the report identifies and examines the ways that faith plays an important role in supporting social justice for refugees.

Across all sites, which share political and social contexts that are often “compromised and precarious,” acts of support for refugees range from offering humanitarian assistance, to diverse acts of advocacy, activism, and solidarity. In detailing the diverse ways that members of faith-based communities – including refugee communities – respond to refugees across all sites, this report offers a crucial counterpoint to prevailing narratives of “crisis” and “burden” in contemporary debates around forced migration.

Such a broad range of examples and case studies also demonstrates a clear disconnect “between what policy makers and practitioners assume that ‘refugees need’ and what different groups of refugees themselves consider to be essential requirements, as prerequisites to dignity and justice”. Engaging with these needs and finding ways to ensure humanitarian interventions promote rather than undermine social justice, therefore emerges as a key issue for policy makers and practitioners.

Finally, this report also details how religion is variously politicised and racialised in diverse contexts. This demonstrates the need for greater attention to be directed toward “the varying ways in which religion is imposed, adopted, rejected, and negotiated as a key marker of identity by different stakeholders affected by and responding to displacement”.

Invitation to Discuss:

We warmly welcome any feedback and points of discussion arising from this report, and have set up a form which you can use to share your thoughts here.

This report is also part of an ongoing project-wide conversation relating to faith and displacement. If you would like to join this conversation, please visit the faith and displacement series for more, or pitch us a piece here.

About the project: 

This report is the outcome of a British Council-funded Bridging Voices project entitled ‘Religion and Social Justice for Refugees.’ The Project’s Joint-Principal Investigators were Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (University College London) and Zareena Grewal and Unni Karunakara (Yale University); the Co-Investigators were Alastair Ager, Louisa Lombard, Catherine Panter-Brick, Anna Rowlands and Lyndsey Stonebridge. The project coordinator was Aydan Greatrick. This report draws on fieldwork conducted in 2018-2019 in Cameroon, Greece, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico and the USA, and interviews conducted with United Nations, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and legal experts.

The researchers included: Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Hanaa Dahdal, Leonie Harsch, Bayan Itani, Mohammad Abu Iyad, Reem El-Khatib and Yousif M. Qasmiyeh (Lebanon); Zareena Grewal, Frances Fagan, Maysan Haydar, Susan Obeid and Patrick Sullivan (Greece); Unni Karunakara and Veena Pillai (Malaysia); Alastair Ager, Shatha El-Nakib, Sura Al-Mahasis, Rania Al-Saheb and Rahmeh Abu Shweimeh (Jordan); Louisa Lombard and Faouzi Kilembe (Cameroon); Catherine Panter-Brick, Mark Eggerman and Melanie León (Mexico and USA); and Anna Rowlands and Lyndsey Stonebridge (interviews with NGO and Faith-Based Organisations (FBO) representatives and with legal experts).

Recommended citation: Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E., Grewal, Z., Karunakara, U., Greatrick, A., Ager, A., Lombard, L., Panter-Brick, C., Stonebridge, L. and Rowlands, A. (2020) Religion and Social Justice for Refugees: Insights from Cameroon, Greece, Malaysia, Mexico, Jordan and Lebanon. Bridging Voices report to the British Council.

Suggested reading:

Featured Image: A man prays on the route to Baddawi camp, North Lebanon(c) Fiddian-Qasmiyeh.


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