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About us Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies Organization Staff PhD Research Christianity and the History of Ideas

Christoph Grüll

Within and beyond the nation-state: Faith-based initiatives in the European refugee crisis

Forced migration and displacement have reached unprecedented dimensions, which has intensified the pressure on the EU’s migration system and political turmoil. Heated dispute on the EU’s external and internal borders, tensions among member states, and much civil societal activism both pro- and anti-immigration have moved towards the center of the attention. How to deal with these challenges? What are the legal and moral obligations of European and national politics? What are the capacities within civil society to accommodate large flows of refugees? In this emerging situation, numerous civil society organizations become involved in both supporting and challenging the state in responding to displacement. The contestation and polarization of the moral, legal, and political obligations and possibilities that are at stake in refugee aid reveal the depth of these debates and that simple approaches do not meet the demands of such complex challenges. While critiquing state-centric approaches to forced migration, cosmopolitan ideals of justice often fail to offer concrete strategies and perspectives for policymaking.

In my project, I engage with these debates and struggles at the level of civil society by looking at actors designated as faith-based organizations. Mosque and church communities play a particularly active role in different European countries in accommodating and assisting refugees. They participate in traditions of sanctuary that predate the nation-state and are yet part of its structure. While they are highly relevant in offering concrete help, they are often overlooked both in public and policy discourse as well as in academic debates on cosmopolitanism. My project addresses this gap. In conducting qualitative research with faith designated groups, organizations, and networks that are involved in refugee aid and advocacy work in different European countries, my aim is to gain insight into the ways how ideas of hospitality, justice, and sanctuary are negotiated, contested, and made productive.

The project brings into view understudied aspects of scholarship on cosmopolitanism (both top-down and from below), social movements, and an empirically informed perspective on the study of political secularism and its contestation. By mapping the work of faith-designated groups in the current European “refugee crisis,” I hence ask whether and, if so, how such groups and initiatives are involved in negotiating, contesting, and potentially reconciling the seemingly opposed positions of state-centric and cosmopolitan approaches to forced migration.

Contact: Christoph Grüll

Last modified:07 August 2020 11.20 a.m.