Between 3-4 March, members and partners of PaRD gathered in Princeton University to participate in the conference Seeking Refuge: Faith-Based Approaches to Forced Migration. Seeking Refuge is the second event in the Poverty and Peacemaking series hosted by Princeton’s Office of Religious Life (ORL) and the Community of Sant’Egidio. The event gathered faith-based and secular organisations, governmental and intergovernmental representatives, grassroots religious leaders, academics, and refugees for a series of roundtable sessions and panels on faith-based approaches to forced migration.
The participants that gathered were diverse, including several PaRD partners and members, ranging from academic scholars, representatives from faith-based and secular agencies, governmental and intergovernmental officials, religious leaders, to students and refugees. The panels covered a wide range of topics, such as gender and migration, nationalism, the religious experiences of refugees, as well as media and migration.
All participants collectively agreed that forced migration is one of the most urgent issues of our time.
Thus, the discussions focussed on root causes, as well as long-term implications of the present refugee crisis and discussants shared their experiences of working in the field of forced migration in order to identify suitable approaches to the crisis.
Several key issues were agreed upon. For instance, all participants affirmed that working with the media and educating the public about refugees in order to combat stereotypes and misconceptions is necessary to find comprehensive solutions. In addition, coalition building was considered as crucial for ensuring efficient advocacy as policy makers are more likely to respond to joint efforts. Furthermore, it is important to empower refugees as well as to listen to their own needs and ideas to ensure human dignity for all.
The Office of Religious Life encourages partnerships across religious lines and between religious and secular actors, and on the conference occasion aimed to highlight the faith-based responses to refugee crises around the world. The Community of Sant’Egidio is a global catholic lay movement whose work includes brokering peace agreements internationally. This year, the Community launched Humanitarian Corridors, a pilot project that grants refugee families humanitarian visas to Italy. The project is a result of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior, and the Community of Sant’Egidio, and has enabled 700 refugees to arrive safely in Italy since February 2016.
The project demonstrates the crucial role of faith-based organisations (FBOs) and communities at a time where one out of every 113 people on the planet is displaced.
FBOs play an active role in humanitarian assistance, and provide psychological, emotional, and spiritual support to people in traumatic times.
Acknowledging this, participants at the conference underlined their commitment to solidarity with those affected, both through personal gestures and by supporting international efforts to provide support and relief to those who have been forcibly displaced.