IKETH Annual Conference, 23 – 27 September 2016
Being on the Move – Experiences of Refugee Women and their Host Communities
For years people from the Middle East and Africa had crossed the Southern Mediterranean and landed on the small Italian island of Lampedusa. Many had lost their lives on this dangerous passage, escaping as it were one peril only to meet other dangers.
In 2015 refugees began to take the „Balkan-route“. Hundreds of thousands arrived, Syrians, Irakis, Afghans, fleeing from situations of war, persecution and worsening conditions in refugee camps along the Syrian/Turkish borders.
What followed was a sobering lack of solidarity among many EU members states and fears of being „over-rolled“ by refugees. This pushed some European governments more to the right. These fears have increased since the attacks in Paris November 13, 2015.
However, there was also the generosity of many people in many countries, who welcomed the refugees and worked tirelessly to help where governments and NGOs often could not cope with the magnitude of the situation – “welcome culture” became the word of the day, and civil society a major player in the efforts to help.
Secular organisations, communes, but also churches, mosques and religious institutions offered hospitality and temporary relief. After all, migrations play a foundational role in the three monotheistic religions: The exodus from Egypt, the hijra from Mekka to Medina, and the move from Jerusalem into the Hellenistic world became turning points in shaping the respective religious identities and enshrined hospitality, indeed, love of the stranger deeply in religious life. The equality of all human beings and the solidarity in times of distress are also pillars of human rights conventions.
The challenge was and continues to be, to organize and sustain this commitment in the concrete situation.
– How did relationships between guest and host communities develop?
– What were/are experiences of women, who mostly came with their families?
– What were difficulties on the move and later on, in the so called “integration process”?
– Did religion play a role?
– Are there new insights on “migration” in Europe, on the self-image of Europe ?
IKETH will take up these questions at its Annual Conference 2016. Together with:
– Christian, Muslim and Jewish women theologians, exploring traditions of migration and hospitality in their religions
– with women who served as volunteers at various places,
– with women involved in projects of integration in host communities.
Doing this IKETH aims to contribute to a culture of civil courage; to continue networking among European women of different religions, who work in religious institutions; and to collect elements necessary for good living together – further exploring “convivencia”
Members and guests from several countries in the Balkans, continuing IKETH’s focus on South-Eastern Europe , involving more Muslims and more young women, for which IKETH hopes to find scholarships.