Migrants, Refugees and Religion: Global and Comparative Perspectives

This unit will examine the multifaceted experience of migrants and refugees. Taking an interdisciplinary and global approach, it will explore the historical, sociological, legal, and political aspects of contemporary human mobility.


THEL620 - Migrants, Refugees and Religion: Global and Comparative Perspectives

Course dates

10 -21 July 2017


Dr Gemma Cruz and Dr Edmund Chia
Form(s) of teaching

Face-to-face teaching, group activities and off site activities

Form(s) of assessment

Presentation and Essay

ACU credit points


ECTS Credits


US Credits

3 or 4

Contact hours

25- 33 hours

This unit would have particular appeal to graduate students, and advanced level bachelor students who are:

  • interested in, or committed to, social justice;
  • interested in social issues surrounding migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers;
  • engaged in ministries, pastoral work, or social work among migrants, refugees and asylum seekers;
  • interested in learning about intercultural and inter-religious dialogue;
  • interested in issues of World Christianity and the global Church;
  • working or serving in multicultural or multi-religious settings.

Migration, refugees, race, and religion are words which, when used together, evoke uneasy sentiments as can be seen in the rise of anti-immigration political parties in Europe and the resurgence of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party in Australia. The recent surge of Middle-Eastern refugees into Europe laid bare these sentiments, oftentimes framed in terms of the hospitality-hostility debate.

When viewed through the prism of race and religion, indeed, the debate becomes problematic. Slovakia expressed it wants to take Christian migrants only just as Australian politicians indicated they will prioritise Christian asylum seekers. The media highlighted the words of a Hungarian bishop: “They’re not refugees. This is an invasion . . . They come here with cries of Allahu Akbar. They want to take over.” Of course, there is the other narrative of ordinary Hungarians and other Europeans welcoming refugees and that of the thousands of Australians who participated in vigils in support of refugees.

Human mobility, particularly in contemporary times, comes with considerable challenges. Migrants and refugees, however, are not only sites of need; they also come bearing gifts. Indeed, the rhetoric and stories in the destination countries are not just about gloom and doom but also about promise and hope.

Course Topics:
  • Overview of Human Mobility in the 21st Century: Global, Continental, and Regional Profiles
  • Vulnerable People on the Move: Women and Children, Unskilled Workers, Refugees and Asylum Seekers
  • Religion as Resource Before, During and After Migration
  • Migration in Christian and Islamic Theology
  • Migration and Multiculturalism
  • Social Justice and Religious Experience Among Contemporary Migrants and Refugees
  • The Spirituality of Migrants and Refugees
  • The Catholic Church and Its Mission in the Context of Migration

The off-campus activity will serve as a context and/or concrete example/illustration of the unit topics. It will also provide a sense of the rich migration history and multicultural character of Australia, in general, and Sydney, in particular. Activities will include visits to:

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site Museum
  • Multicultural neighbourhoods in Sydney
  • Asylum seeker and refugee support organisation

On successful completion of this unit students should be able to:

  • Appreciate the challenges, struggles, dreams and successes that migrants, refugees and asylum seekers have in their countries of origin and destination.
  • Explore the role and intersection of race and religion in relation to the experience of people on the move.
  • Understand the importance of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue and relationship.

Frank Brennan, “Human Rights as a Challenge to National Policies That Exclude Refugees: Two Case Studies from Southeast Asia,” in Driven from Home: Protecting the Rights of Forced Migrants, ed. David Hollenbach, S.J. (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2010): 97-114.

Judy Chan, “Welcoming the Stranger: Christian Hospitality to Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Hong Kong,”CTC Bulletin Vol. XXVIII, No. 1 (December 2012): 41-61.

Edmund Chia, “Biblical Reflections on Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Australia,” Asian Horizons 8/4 (December 2014): 706-718.

Gemma Tulud Cruz, “Light of the World?: Christianity and Immigrants from the Global South,” in World Christianity: Perspectives and Insights, eds. Jonathan Tan and Anh Tran (New York: Orbis, 2016): 85-107

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