Helping Refugees Build a Home
Interactions between Muslim Chaplains and Vulnerable Persons
Keywords:chaplaincy, vulnerability, home, refugee, spiritual care, Islam
This study focuses on the question of how Muslim chaplains can, through their interventions, exert an influence on the situation of refugees, characterised by vulnerability and loss of home. Based on definitions in social work and anthropology studies, home can be conceptualised as a key anthropological need, comprised of spatial, temporal, relational and spiritual dimensions. Referring to an empirical study on asylum chaplaincy in Switzerland, this study analyses how five Muslim chaplains accompany refugees, how their styles of chaplaincy differ in practice and what effects their interventions have. These empirical results are then brought into conversation with a theoretical framework, to explore the connections between counselling and vulnerability. While it could be argued that referring to the vulnerable situation of refugees reinforces an image of passivity, the co-construction of a home represents a collaborative effort and empowers refugees by mobilising both forces and resources. Chaplains, in particular, can contribute to the relational and spiritual dimensions of home. For refugees, articulating their religious concerns and working together with Muslim chaplains, means they can address the limits of the existing asylum system and demand recognition of cultural diversity.
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