15 J. Refugee Stud. 136 (2002)
Spiritual Emergency Room: The Role of Spirituality and Religion in the Resettlement of Kosovar Albanians

handle is hein.journals/jrefst15 and id is 146 raw text is: Journal of Refugee Studies Vol. 15. No. 2 2002

Spiritual Emergency Room:
The Role of Spirituality and Religion
in the Resettlement of Kosovar Albanians
ELZBIETA M. GOZDZIAK
Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University
Religion and spirituality sustain many refugees in their process of uprooting,
forced migration, and integration into the host society. And yet religion and
spirituality are virtually absent in policy debates and programming for refugees
and forced migrants. Researchers have also tended to neglect the role of religion
and spirituality as a source of emotional and cognitive support, a lbrm of social
and political expression and mobilization, and a vehicle of community building
and group identity. Using Operation Provide Refuge as a case study, this article
highlights the role of religion and spirituality in ameliorating the suffering of
ethnic Albanians fleeing Kosova in the spring of 1999, and argues that the
spiritual context of human suffering should provide the foundation for under-
standing and responding to the suffering of refugees. It underscores the intersection
of refugees' suffering and resulting trauma with spirituality, and religion, and
juxtaposes the emic perspective of the Kosovars, who conceptualized their
suffering as a spiritual experience and turned to Islam to recover from war
trauma, with the etic perspective of the Western service providers, who tended to
secularize the suffering of the Kosovar Albanians and shied away from
interventions incorporating religious ritual and spiritual beliefs.
'Today, religion is increasingly in public view, not only as a matter of practice,
but as a subject of study,' said Diana Eck in her opening remarks at the
Macalester International Roundtable in the autumn of 2000.
Now, as the twentieth century draws to a close, people in a wide variety of fields-
business, law, politics, economics, development policy, medicine, and conflict
resolution-are becoming interested in religion as they become increasingly aware
of the power of religion in their own societies and in the world,
she continued (Eck 2000: 3).
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the refugee field. Religious
and spiritual beliefs and practices sustain many refugees and internally
displaced in their process of uprooting, forced migration, and integration into
the host society. And yet religion and spirituality are virtually absent in policy
debates and programming for refugees and forced migrants. It remains to be
©Oxford Univcrsity Press 2002

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