The Role of Churches in the Resilience Process of the Haitian Asylum Seekers and Syrian refugees

The main objective of this research is to raise awareness of the role played by the Christian religious groups (local churches and faith-based organizations) in the Haitian asylum seekers’ and Syrian refugees’ resilience. Religious groups’ involvement has taken two forms: private sponsorship offered by the churches for Syrian refugees, and local Haitian churches for Haitian asylum seekers. Local Haitian churches are the organizations that have been the most welcoming to refugee claimants. One of the questions guiding this research is to identify the characteristics of the intervention of churches and faith-based organizations, and how they complement the work done by other actors involved in the matter.

Given the purpose of this project is to understand the role of the religious groups in the resilience process of the refugees and asylum seekers, the nature of the activities will be mostly structured based on a qualitative approach that will include semi-structured interviews. We also plan to meet with:

  1. 20 religious leaders whose churches have been involved in welcoming Syrian refugees or Haitian asylum seekers. In the case of the Syrian refugees, it will be addressed the involvement of the Churches in the private sponsorship; in the case of the Haitian asylum seekers, the involvement of the Churches whose devotees fall into this category. During the interviews, the religious leaders will be asked to present the context of their interventions, their practical modalities, and the consequences for the entire community.
  2. 20 Syrian refugees and 20 Haitian asylum seekers. These interviews will focus specifically on the role of the religious groups since the newcomers’ arrival in Québec, particularly with respect to their biographical journey. The interviews will also focus on the role of the religious practices in the individuals’ ability to cope with the difficulties related to their arrival in Québec.
For this project we aim to produce knowledge that will also be good practices on the ground. We therefore plan to create 2 types of documents that can be developed in partnership with the Resilience Office and the BINAM Association.

We have an indicative calendar that reflects the main phases of the project where M means month.

  • M1 - M2: recruitment of participants, application for ethical certification (UQAM Ethics Committee) and, the pre-test phase of the semi-structured interviews to adjust them, if needed.
  • M2-M6: fieldwork (interviews).
  • M6 – M8: data analysis based on notes and “fact sheets” produced for each interview from a list of themes of analysis that will be developed by the members of the research team.
  • M9-M12: preparation of two documents of knowledge mobilization and dissemination of results to partners, institutions and organizations interested in the role of religious groups to support refugees and asylum seekers.

  • Frédéric Dejean, Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Principal Investigator.
  • Emerson Jean-Baptiste, postdoctoral investigator, Department of Religious Studies, UQAM, research coordinator.
  • Jude-Mary Cenat, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Ottawa, science advisor.
  • Morad Bkhait, PhD candidate, Department of Religious Studies, UQAM, research assistant.
  • Salma Lazim, Master’s Candidate, Department of Communication, research assistant.
    • Community Partners
    • Irène Cloutier, Advisor of the Ecological Transition and Resilience Office (City of Montréal).
    • Marie-France René, Cultural Affairs advisor, Newcomers integration to the City of Montréal Office (BINAM – City of Montréal)

What is our approach?

From a theoretical perspective, we are based on two different but related works:

  1. those who follow the sociology of networking, interested in the multiple ways in which newcomers establish their “social capital” building up a network of acquaintances;
  2. those who study the role of the religious practices and beliefs in the individuals’ “resilience”.
The term “resilience” is found to be used from perspectives opened by the sociology and the social psychology. Resilience can be understood as the ability to create or recreate a social bond. Even though immigration does not necessarily imply the rupture of the existing ties –particularly in the context of globalization and transnationalism- yet, in several cases, it may result in the lost of different social ties in the country of origin. This happens especially in the case of people fleeing from an armed conflict. The resilience process will be then understood as the individual’s ability, supported by a group, to establish different types of relations that, with time, will allow them to fully participate in the hosting society.