Migration and Religion Project Launches

By Ford Program Director Rev. Robert Dowd, CSC

Migrants and refugees are some of the world’s most marginalized people. How well societies welcome, accompany, and integrate migrants is an immensely important topic with implications for human dignity as well as human security. If people live in a society for very long without feeling like they belong, they are likely to believe they have little value and may even engage in violence.

Motivated by the desire to understand how and why migrants and refugees are integrated effectively into host societies, Clemens Sedmak, Ilaria Schnyder von Wartensee, Fr. Dan Groody, CSC, and I have launched a new research project to address the following questions:

  1. How do religious identities, beliefs, and practices affect the attitudes of European citizens towards migrants and refugees and the prospects for their integration?
  2. How do to the religious identities, beliefs, and practices of migrants and refugees affect their attitudes towards host societies and their interest in integration?
  3. What are the characteristics of those efforts that are most effective at promoting this interaction? What are the best practices?

Because we want to ensure that our project is informed by the experiences of those who work directly with migrants and refugees, we hosted a workshop in Rome at Notre Dame’s Rome Global Gateway in October to launch the project. As Italy serves as the pilot study, the workshop focused primarily on Italian social service providers and the Italian Catholic Church.

The workshop was valuable, and it has affected the way we are thinking about the research project moving forward. Among other things, the workshop has reinforced our commitment to listening to migrants themselves—as well as those who work with them—and incorporating the experiences of both migrants and those who work with them into our efforts to identify best practices for integration.

The workshop also caused us to think more seriously about the information or lack of information and experience or lack of experience that affect Europeans' attitudes toward migrants and the attitudes of migrants toward Europeans.

In January 2018, we will begin project fieldwork in Italy, which will include in-depth interviews and a survey of Italian citizens and migrants, as well as case studies of programming designed to integrate migrants and refugees.