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Social Work with Asylum Seekers and Refugees: the importance of client relationships with God Dr. Muireann Ní Raghallaigh School of Applied Social Science,

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Presentation on theme: "Social Work with Asylum Seekers and Refugees: the importance of client relationships with God Dr. Muireann Ní Raghallaigh School of Applied Social Science,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Social Work with Asylum Seekers and Refugees: the importance of client relationships with God Dr. Muireann Ní Raghallaigh School of Applied Social Science, University College Dublin, Ireland Beyond Belief Conference, University of Bradford. 8 Sept 2011

2 2 Influenced by work of Pargament (1997) on Religious Coping The introduction of the sacred in an individual’s search for significance during times of stress (Pargament, 1997) Religious coping used by many people when experiencing stress of different kinds (Sofaer et al., 2005; Fabricatore et al., 2000)

3 3 Religious coping Personal, situational, & contextual forces affect whether or not religious coping is used. Religion becomes involved in coping when it is (a) ‘relatively available’ and (b) ‘relatively compelling’. Pargament (1997)

4 4 Multiple roles played by religion for asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants “… a source of emotional and cognitive support, a form of social and political expression and mobilization, and a vehicle of community building and group identity” (Goździak, 2002, p. 146). Places of worship: centres of cultural identity; providers of information; centres of economic activities; providers of companionship (Hirschman 2004; Ugba, 2007; Zhou et al 2002) Faith providing continuity, (McMichael, 2002; Thompson & Gurney, 2003; Hunt & Lightly, 2001; Corcoran 1993) and comfort and emotional support (Ai et al, 1999; MacMulin & Loughrey, 2000; Smyth & Whyte, 2005; Whittaker, 2005; Nakonz & Shik; 2009)

5 5 Relationships with God: Some examples of what asylum seekers / refugees / immigrants say “In a sense, there are no boundaries in the world. Every place and every piece of earth belongs to Allah” (‘Hawa’, cited in McMichael, 2002, p. 182). “I don’t ignore the problem but solve it in an easy way. You cannot solve the problem if you worry so much. You waste energy, it affects your health, you can’t move anymore. If you know that God loves you, everything becomes light” (‘Gemma’, cited in Nakonz & Shik, 2009). “…I can see that God is still there for me. In this country there is nobody there for you except God” (‘Mercy’, cited in Ugba, 2007: 178)

6 6 Relationships with God “Across ethnicity and gender, these teenagers who have immigrated to the United States – leaving their homes, their schools, and often their dearest friends behind – carry with them an enduring relationship with a personal God, a God who [as one young person stated] ‘is everything to me … is all my support.’” (Thompson & Gurney, 2003, p. 86).

7 7 The Situation of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Minors in Ireland Face multiple challenges Relationships: – Separated from parents / family / childhood friends – Living in hostels, with support from social workers – Friendships with peers in hostels and with Irish born peers – Difficulties trusting Relationships with God? – God depicted as a loving and caring presence in their lives.

8 8 I don’t think even [Irish young people] know God. […] I don’t think they know. You tell them God, they say, what’s God, you know what I mean? That’s the big difference between me and them, you know. I don’t think they know God…. They know but because of … they just know because their parents say. Yeah, God. They don’t know God that much. That’s the big difference. But lots of international, actually not lots, most of international students, they talk about God very well. They know God very well because of the religion in their country and the way their parents talk, you know. That’s the way they know. Knowing God

9 9 Liking God Eh [laughs] … because [he] give me, you know, life. Yeah. I’m fine every day. I not sick. I’m fine. Yeah. Ehm … ah. [He] like me. Yeah. And me I like my God. It’s ok.

10 10 Trusting God: The only, only, only friend [laughs] I trusted all the time, that’s God. […] I don’t have any more friends, I res_, I trusted more than God, I don’t think so. You know because, always God knows more than everybody. And God’s gonna help you all the time. […] God always gonna help.

11 11 Believing in God Yeah, so, since, since I got the letter I’m not feeling good, so good. […] Ehm… so, I’m thinking, worried, and all of that, so … but I, I trust God, and I believe in God, and God is going to bring a smile for me. […] I still believe in God. And I would never go back. I will still worship my God, because he’s a real God, and I believe in Him […]So, there’s nothing that can, it can happen to me that I will never forget him. […] So, I believe that that is God’s wish that I won’t get the letter.

12 12 God as confidant Like, sometimes … It’s hard to say but sometimes you get disappointed, you know, but … you get strong. Like, go back. Maybe whatever you are disappointed about is because you sinned. So you need to go back and retrace (?) it and, you know. … Yeah, because whatever you, your problem you have, if you can’t talk it with God, who else can you talk it? He’s your creator. He knows it. But you just have to discuss it with him.

13 13 God as helper I just pray for God to help me, you know? … […]Help me to … see the right man. […] That will like, love me. Get married. Settle down. Have a nice job. Just to get my status. You understand? Get my status. Have a nice job. Live a nice life with my family. That is all.

14 14 God as protector Because I believe he’s the one that sent the man to help me. I believe he’s the one that brought me to this, eh, country, you understand? I believe he’s the one that’s still protecting me up till now. I believe with him everything is possible. [God] is important, ‘cos, ehm … I have been through many things and here I am, I’m still, I’m still alive. So, he is very important in my life. Though I don’t know him, but I know he is there. You know. I know he, there is somebody who is looking after me.

15 15 To conclude: Religious coping as a ‘relatively available’ and ‘relatively compelling’ way for asylum seekers and refugees to deal with difficult circumstances Relationship with God as a key source of resilience in the past present and future: continuity Within difficult circumstances, God providing comfort and companionship. God / religion as an ‘anchor’ as suggested by various authors (Corcoran, 1993; Hirschman, 2004; McMichael, 2003)

16 16 Implications Practitioners need to be aware of the particular roles religion might play in the lives of particular client groups, including migrant groups. Researchers need to explore client views in relation to the role of religion / spirituality in their lives, and their expectations of professionals in this regard. The role of clients’ relationships with God warrants particular attention. Researchers exploring broader topics need to be open to religious / spiritual themes and references to God.

17 17 References Ai, A.L., Peterson, C., & Huang, B. (2003) The Effect of Religious-Spiritual Coping on Positive Attitudes of Adult Muslim Refugees from Kosovo and Bosnia. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 13 (1), Corcoran, M.P. (1993) Irish Illegals: Transients Between Two Societies. Contributions in Ethnic Studies, No. 32. London: Greenwood Press. Fabricatore, A.N., Handal, P.J., & Fenzel, L.M. (2000) Personal spirituality as a moderator of the relationship between stressors and subjective well-being. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 28 (2), Goodman, J.H. (2004) Coping with trauma and hardship among unaccompanied refugee youths from Sudan. Qualitative Health Research, 14 (9), Goździak, E.M. (2002) Spiritual emergency room: the role of spirituality and religion in the resettlement of Kosovar Albanians. Journal of Refugee Studies, 15 (2), Hirschman, C. (2004) The role of religion in the origins and adaptation of immigrant groups in the United States. International Migration Review. 38 (3), Hunt, S. & Lightly, N. (2001) The British black Pentecostal ‘revival’: identity and belief in the ‘new’ Nigerian churches. Ethnic and Racial Studies. 24 (1),

18 18 References MacMullin, C. & Loughry, M. (2000) A child-centred approach to investigating refugee children’s concerns. In F.L. Ahearn Jr. (ed.) Psychosocial wellness in refugees: Issues in qualitative and quantitative research. Oxford: Berghahn Books. McMichael, C. (2002) ‘Everywhere is Allah’s Place’: Islam and the Everyday Life of Somali Women in Melbourne, Australia. Journal of Refugee Studies, 15 (2), Nakonz, J. and Shik, A. W. Y. (2009) 'And all your problems are gone: religious coping strategies among Philippine migrant workers in Hong Kong', Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 12(1), Ní Raghallaigh, M., & Gilligan, R. (2010). ‘Active survival in the lives of unaccompanied minors: coping strategies, resilience, and the relevance of religion’ in Child and Family Social Work, Vol. 15 ( ). Ní Raghallaigh, M. (2011) ‘Religion in the lives of unaccompanied minors: an available and compelling coping resource’ in British Journal of Social Work, Vol. 41 ( ).

19 19 References Pargament, K.I. (1997) The Psychology of Religion and Coping – Theory, Research, Practice. London: Guilford Press. Smyth, K. & Whyte, J. (2005) Making a new life in Ireland: Lone refugee and asylum- seeking mothers and their children. Dublin: Children’s Research Centre, Trinity College. Sofaer, B., Moore, A.P., Holloway, I., Lamberty, J.M., Thorp, T.A.S., O’Dwyer, J. (2005) Chronic pain as perceived by older people: a qualitative study. Age and Ageing. 34 (5), 462–466 Thompson, N.E. & Gurney, A.G. (eds.) (2003) ‘He is everything’: Religion’s role in the lives of immigrant youth. New Directions for Youth Development, Issue 100. Wiley Publications. Ugba, A. (2007) African Pentecostals in twenty-first century Ireland: identity and integration. In: B. Fanning (ed) Immigration and social chance in the Republic of Ireland. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Whittaker, S., Hardy, G., Lewis, K., & Buchan, L. (2005) An Exploration of Psychological Well-being with Young Somali Refugee and Asylum-seeker Women. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 10 (2), Zhou, M., Bankston, C.L., & Kim, R.Y. (2002) Rebuilding spiritual lives in the new land: Religious Practices among Southeast Asian refugees in the United States. In P.G. Min & J.H. Kim Religions in Asian America: Building Faith Communities. Oxford: Altamira Press.


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