Andrea Bieler | Isolde Karle | HyeRan Kim-Cragg | Ilona Nord (Eds.)

Religion and Migration

Negotiating Hospitality,
Agency and Vulnerability

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ISBN 978-3-374-06133-4



Title Page



Andrea Bieler, HyeRan Kim-Cragg, Isolde Karle and Ilona Nord


Religion and Migration: Negotiating Hospitality, Agency and Vulnerability

I. Migrants’ Agency and Changing Landscapes of Religion

Ludger Pries and Rafael Bohlen

Transnational Migration and the Travelling of Religious Beliefs

Claudia Jahnel

Migration and Justice

Postcolonial Discourses on Migration as Challenge and Partner for Theology

Regina Polak

Migrants as Agents of Social and Religious Innovation

Buhle Mpofu

Theologies of Belonging and Emerging Transnational Identities in Southern Africa

II. Rethinking Hospitality and Home

Claudia Hoffmann

Migrant Churches in Switzerland and their Networking Strategies

Thomas E. Reynolds

Beyond Hospitality?

Unsettling Theology and Migration in Canada

Ray Aldred

Indigenous and Newcomers

An Opportunity for Collaboration

Andrea Bieler and Katherine Kunz

Responding to the Loss of Home

Perspectives and Practices of Refugees in the Context of Projekt DA-SEIN in Basel (Switzerland)

Ilona Nord and Katja Höglinger

Images of Feeling at Home

A Digital Short Story Project with Young Migrants

Isolde Karle

Religious Reasoning and Social Engagement in Support of Refugees and Migrants

III. Public Discourse and Religious Practice

Henrietta M. Nyamnjoh

Globalized Healing and Evangelism

The Quest for Health and Healing among Cameroonian Migrants in Cape Town (South Africa)

Julius-Kei Kato

The Pathos of Mark’s Jesus and the Pathos of Migrant Life

Migration as a Source for Theology and Biblical Interpretation

Jione Havea

Migration and the Hebrew Bible

A Pasifikation, in Solidarity for West Papua

HyeRan Kim-Cragg

Home, Hospitality, and Preaching

A Need for the Homiletical Engagement of Migration

Jula Elene Well

Political Dissent as Challenge

Religious Discourse in the Public Sphere in Germany at the Time of the So-called Refugee Crisis

List of Contributors

More Books



This book developed out of a series of papers presented and discussed at a conference titled Current Migration and Religion: A Transnational Discourse at Landgut Castelen, Augst near Basel (Switzerland) in June 2018. Over 50 participants attended the interdisciplinary and international conference. The papers were significantly revised for this volume and we invited a few more scholars to enrich the collection with perspectives that were missing and needed to be included.

This volume engages the field of religion and migration and grapples with the complex interfaces of concepts such as hospitality as well as the agency and vulnerability of migrants in light of religious practices and discourse. It calls for a deeper and more nuanced appreciation of migration issues from theological, transnational, interdisciplinary and intersectional perspectives. Thus, we are grateful to a diverse group of scholars from the fields of sociology and anthropology as well as theology and religious studies who accepted our invitation to contribute to this volume.

We would like to express our gratitude to colleagues and students who helped prepare the conference, particularly Federico Settler (University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa) as well as Tabea Eugster and Romana Giossi (University of Basel). We especially appreciate the diligent work of Matthias Stracke-Bartholmai (Basel) who took on many organizational responsibilities.

We are grateful to the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland who supported the publication with a subsidy to the printing costs.

We thank the Swiss National Science Foundation as well as the Freie Akademische Gesellschaft of the University of Basel for their generous financial support.

Isolde Karle and Andrea Bieler want to thank Leila Thöni, Katherine Kunz and Antonia Rumpf who have been superb proof readers. Ilona Nord is grateful to Dale Provost who was again a thorough copy editor working with her chapter. HyeRan Kim-Cragg gives thanks to David, who is her first reader and best critic, and to her friend, Christine Zyla, who is her personal editor.

Finally, we thank Annette Weidhas, chief editor at the Evangelische Verlagsanstalt in Leipzig (Germany) as well as Stefan Selbmann and Sina Dietl for their helpful and kind cooperation as we moved towards finalizing the book.

Andrea Bieler (Basel), Isolde Karle (Bochum), HyeRan Kim-Cragg (Toronto) and Ilona Nord (Würzburg)

October 2019


Religion and Migration: Negotiating Hospitality, Agency and Vulnerability

Andrea Bieler, HyeRan Kim-Cragg, Isolde Karle and Ilona Nord

Why Migration?

The issue of migration is not new. Migration as the movement of people from one place to another has always existed. In order to live and thrive, all of us, human and non-human species must move. If the issue of migration is nothing new and it has always happened, then why do we need to talk about migration now? What is at stake?

The contributors to this book ask these questions and have identified that, due to environmental and political developments, migration is one of the most critical phenomena impacting the human family today. The scale of migration in the 21st century is so massive and world-wide that it affects even those who have not undertaken migration. The annual Global Trends Study of 2017 of the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) shows that 68.5 million people were currently displaced across the globe, the highest level in human history thus far and the number is growing. New displacement is also growing. 16.2 million people were driven from their homes during 2017 alone. That is an average of one person displaced every two seconds.1

Why Religion and Migration in Conversation?

Noting both the seriousness of this phenomenon and its alarming rate as well as migration as a constant factor in the history of religions, a conference was organized by scholars in various disciplines in Basel (Switzerland). With a sense of urgency, participants from three different continents (Africa, Europe, and North America) attended the conference and were invited to discuss a nuanced yet comprehensive analysis of the highly politicized entanglements of religion and migration. The debates revealed the complexity of the current reality of migration. Presentations addressed particularly dire situations and precarious issues that face migrants in various parts of the world and discussed how these circumstances impact geographic regions and ecclesial bodies differently. This volume is a continuing effort to grapple with migration as a process of multiple negotiations. It participates in the unfolding interdisciplinary field of research that explores ambiguous and complex issues that are emerging and unfolding at the nexus of religion and migration.

The responses to the ongoing migration movements have changed the political landscapes in dangerously negative ways. Those who bluntly and unapologetically oppose the influx of migrants from countries near and far have been elected to the governments of their respective nations. The winds of nationalism and chauvinism are blowing hard. Populist and ultra-conservative voices who call for the building of walls and deploy an anti-immigrant rhetoric are speaking loudly and spreading widely. Religion, including Christianity, is implicated and cannot escape its responsibility to this issue. Especially in the form of fundamentalism or extremism, different religions have contributed to the anti-immigration rhetoric of exclusion and hostility. Even more moderate believers have endorsed violence of all kinds through their indifference and silence, propelling the perception that refugees are a general threat to nation states. Religion is implicated in constellations of conflict and xenophobia. These entanglements need new and constructive ways to address and challenge them.

A Deeper and More Nuanced Conversation: Negotiating Hospitality, Agency and Vulnerability

Contrary to these negative reactions, migration has also sparked a range of positive responses from religious communities who receive migrants. Religion, true to its etymology, with its meaning of binding, has made constructive initiatives to welcome and include newcomers into new communities. Religious initiatives have also sought to develop cultural and religious competence in diversity, while actively supporting migrants and refugees. These responses involve efforts to broaden networks among different communities, moving beyond their denominational boundaries and ecclesial practices. Christian communities that have engaged in migration have rediscovered the treasures in biblical tradition and rekindled its practices of preaching as well as recognizing a need for public discourse as a prophetic call and public theology. Migration has made Christian communities, who are in the role of hosts and in power, realize their own identity as pilgrims, migrants and sojourners and their own vulnerability. In this sense, migration has helped us to remember that religion has always been a transnational phenomenon. Migration shapes and changes how believers understand religion and provides an opportunity to deepen one’s faith in God. In this sense, migration and religion mutually inform and are intricately connected to each other. They are at the crossroads. At this intersection, it is the agency of migrants that reinvents, reframes and transforms existing religious identities and practices.

However, the flip side of the same coin rings true. In the past, the dominant discourse between migration and religion, Christianity in particular, has focused heavily on how Christians and churches provide assistance by receiving and settlingmigrants. This kind of theological and pastoral reflection remains at the level of benevolent works, and while laudable, it is unable to self-examine and unearth the complex root causes of the problemof migration in which Christianity, with its colonial legacy, is implicated. At best, it offers a degree of compassion and provides examples of howtogiveahelpinghand in the nameof hospitality. This isablessing. However, failing to go beyond this stance will simplymaintain the status quo. This is why a deeper and more nuanced conversation must take place and the meaning and the practice of hospitality as understood by Christians needs rethinking.

Hospitality is one of the key concepts, which has widely appeared in recent theological and religious studies publications. It has been defined as a welcoming culture (Willkommenskultur), and seen to have positive connotations in the context of migration, often because it is also formed and reinforced by religious narratives. Yet, this rather naïve understanding of hospitality createsa dichotomybetweengivers and receivers, between guest and host, which enables claims concerning ownership and belonging. That is why this book tackles the meaning of home, or the loss of it, in the context of migration and in conjunction with hospitality.

In this volume, the questions of who is host and who is guest, who owns and occupies home and who does not, within the context of migration, are posed. These beg further questions about what home is in transnational, diasporic, displaced situations. Contributors engage colonial legacies to probe the possibilities of sharing a space as home with indigenous people, the original inhabitants of a place prior to European colonialization. Contributors contend that not only has migration always existed but also that it has always been a multifaceted and unfolding phenomenon with regard to religious imaginaries. Thus, the concepts of home, belonging and citizenship, which are integral to migration, can never be static or fixed but are open to ambiguity and change.

The volume interrogates both the peril and promise of the relationship between religion and hospitality, lifting up the role of migrants’ resistance and vulnerable agency, rather than focusing on them as passive and powerless victims or labelling them as dangerous villains. This interrogation as a way of negotiating sites of migration inspires the interdisciplinary, transnational, biblical and theological engagement that some contributors of this book have undertaken. Many chapters emphasize a nuanced approach equipped with non-dualistic analyses that does not aim to provide an oppositional or a definite solution but brings seemingly opposite matters, problems, even solutions into constructive conversation, by holding contradictions in a creative tension. Postcolonial theories and theologies have offered these intricacies as negotiated sites of vulnerability and resistant agency that migrants, and others encountering migrants, often grapple with.

Snapshots of the Chapters

The book is divided into three parts. The organizing principle of the book is thematic. A thematic approach strives for a holistic integration of theoretical and practical perspectives of the academic discourse on religion and migration. These themes serve as a frame of reference and sites of negotiation for reflecting on migration realities, and creating and changing religious meanings and practices. The first theme in part 1 is MigrantsAgency and Changing Landscapes of Religion where authors deal with the agency of migrants and how migration affects changes in religious practices and reasoning. Agency is understood as the conscious shaping of belief and practice; it includes as well the responses to difficult and at times threatening circumstances that people on the move experience.

Ludger Pries and Rafael Bohlen reflect on the agency of migrants against the backdrop of religion as a transnational phenomenon long before the modern notion of nation states was born. This holds for the Jewish and Christian religious groups, as well as for the Umma or Buddhism. Religious people were and are pioneers in migration, from the mode of involuntary migration as refugees fleeing religious discrimination and persecution to the form of voluntary migration of missionaries in diasporas. Simultaneously, migrants were pioneers in transnational diffusion of religion from the (voluntary) labour migrants, bringing with them new ways of religious thinking and practices, to the (involuntary) forced émigrés fleeing war and organized violence. Simple and reflexive modernization did not change these entanglements of religion and migration. In more recent times, this complexity rose substantially in the light of new information and communication technologies and practices, individualization processes, public discourses on shifting boundaries of belonging and debates on religious extremism. Based on historical examples and the example of the changing veneration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pries and Bohlen emphasize the crucial and growing role of international migration in general and the shifting role of religious beliefs in the context of cross-border migration between Mexico and the USA.

Claudia Jahnel engages a postcolonial analysis of the public discourse on migration and flight. She claims that the current debates reveal the revival of colonial stereotypes. Strategies of othering mark the public image of the migrant who is portrayed either as victim or as perpetrator. These strategies are challenged by the postcolonial perception that to flee and to migrate entails proactive agency in search of safe and just livelihoods. At times an unauthorized migratory practice of freedom emerges that disturbs the spatial and geopolitical stability, e. g. of the Mediterranean region. Jahnel claims that a new epistemology of the meaning of borders is essential for critical theological reflections on the entanglement of migration and religion. In this vein, a postcolonial reading of church declarations and theologies on migration is needed to develop decolonized theories of borders and of epistemologies of the other. In addition, a postcolonial theology must take seriously the theology of migrants and the fact that biblical traditions on migration aim at the realization of justice.

Drawing from historical and social scientific research on migration, Regina Polak portrays migrants as independent and creative actors who have been making significant contributions to socio-cultural and religious innovations of societies in the past and in the present. Referring to theories of Vilém Flusser, Zygmunt Bauman and Pierre Bourdieu, the author promotes a conversion of gaze that can sustain alternative, positive narratives about migration. Sketching out biblical perspectives on migration, the author demonstrates that a resource-orientated outlook on migration has been a pivotal impulse for developing ethical monotheism. In a further move Polak points out that migration phenomena have been and continue to be spaces of learning for faith and theology. Presenting her empirical research project Living and Learning from and with Refugees, the author highlights that this can also be the case today. For instance, learning experiences of care workers supporting refugees should be perceived as essential resources for social innovation.

By conducting interviews and working with African migrants in South Africa, Buhle Mpofu demonstrates how various practices of resistance to hostility and xenophobia have led to the emergence of particular forms of transnational religious consciousness. For Mpofu, listening to the voices of migrants and interpreting the implied insights are essential for the development of a theology that disrupts the portrayal of migrants as mere passive victims. By exploring these articulations of agency through the lens of belonging, transnational migrants provide a lens for understanding emerging postcolonial identities as they reinvent and recreate metaphors of survival within their hostile communities. Given that migrants rely on their spirituality for survival strategies to cope with the challenges they face in African communities, traditional hospitality regimes are disrupted and challenged as the concepts of home, belonging or citizenship are called into question. In addition, Mpofu argues that traditional boundaries, which once confined particular religions to certain geographical locations, are melting as cultures merge with the movement of people and religious symbols or practices and as literature, art and politics converge on a larger scale. He claims that a multifaceted intercultural theology emerging from the contemporary Southern African migratory movements needs to consider these developments.

The second section of the book is devoted to Rethinking Hospitality and Home. It probes a critical interrogation of both notions. Both of these are powerful constructs that undergird religious and political practices and discourse. Both are highly ambiguous. It is under debate if these concepts are helpful at all for a critical theological reflection on migratory practices.

Claudia Hoffmann engages the topic of agency by investigating the networking strategies of migrant churches in Switzerland through which they relate to other churches and to the larger social environments in which they are embedded. In the style of a case study, she describes the profiles and networking strategies of an Eritrean charismatic church and of an Arabic speaking congregation of the Methodist church. The networking practices are discussed in the context of the rapid decrease in members of the Reformed Church of Switzerland during the last 20–30 years, whereas the importance of other denominations and religions has increased. Hoffmann points toward the boom in the establishment of new churches and the correlative diversification of Christianity; both of these developments have their roots in growing migration from the Global South. Such trends pose the question of whether and how churches of these different backgrounds will develop a life together in Switzerland in the future.

In light of settler colonialism and its damaging consequences for Indigenous peoples in Canada, TomReynolds proposes a model of mutual hospitality as a way of decolonizing and (re)imagining relationships and home with respect to migration realities in Canada. He problematizes dominant conceptions and practices of hospitality and seeks resources for a more robust hospitality rooted in biblical traditions, resistant to settler colonialism in a spirit of repentance and resonant with indigenous wisdom and treaty practice. Reynolds unfolds his argument in four steps: first, he examines key modalities of settler colonialism; in a second step he illustrates how these couple with and contaminate hospitality; in a third move Reynolds explores aspects of hospitality that can be resources in efforts to decolonize Christian theology and practice; finally, the chapter concludes with some suggestions for further development that engage indigenous wisdom.

In a similar vein Ray Aldred claims that indigenous identity is connected to the land and offers resources for learning to live in connection with the land and with newcomers. Indigenous understandings challenge notions of hospitality as inadequate but see land and ceremony as integral to forming shared identities. Engaging ideas about indigenous identity and indigenous ceremony would allow for an ecclesiology that is not seen as an ongoing imposition of colonialismbut is made productive in seeking a common good that holds differences without assimilation.

Andrea Bieler and Katherine Kunz explore the difficult notion of home through the reflections of persons seeking asylum and of philosophers and theologians. It draws examples from the experiences of participants at Projekt DASEIN, a church-based outreach program to refugees and asylum-seekers in Basel (Switzerland). This program seeks to overcome paternalistic patterns of assistance by focusing on practices that entice reciprocity among all participants. The loss of home is a fundamental human experience that can occur over the course of a lifetime in different ways. However, the experiences of persons who were forced to leave their homes due to violent and life-threatening conditions is a complex liminal phenomenon that is embedded in broader cultural, religious, legal and psychological circumstances. Understanding the agency of refugees in this in-between-space is crucial for developing more profound concepts of home and hospitality that might assist in developing meaningful practices. From this backdrop Bieler and Kunz outline several facets of losing home including provisional homemaking, responding to experiences of rootlessness and dislocation. Finally, the articulation of home as via negativa is explored: as an absence that turns into an intense presence in the painful yearnings and hopeful desires of women, men and children who search for a more secure future in Switzerland.

Ilona Nord and Katja Höglinger present insights from a student research project which took place at Würzburg University in Germany. Sixteen young migrants were invited to articulate their associations with the topic of feeling at home by choosing pictures and writing short statements using the didactic concept of Digital Short Storytelling. Five of them also gave interviews. This approach sought to begin, not with a deficit-oriented perspective, but rather by giving participants the opportunity to articulate their ideas about feeling at home in more open and creative ways. At the same time, this project gave students in the field of religious education the chance to learn more about the perspectives of migrant youth, enhance their knowledge of diversity-oriented approaches to religious education and engage learning methods in digital settings. Nord and Höglinger conclude by offering didactic suggestions for expanding this approach in future research.

Isolde Karle argues that in regard to a long-term commitment to refugees, it is crucial for churches that their high motivation is paired with a realistic view of the challenges of migration. This means that problems are neither ignored nor played down, but clearly named and constructively dealt with. This also applies to the importance of religion. Religion plays an important role in the vulnerable situation of many refugees. Not only in Islam, but also in Christianity, fundamentalist tendencies appear to exercise a special kind of appeal in highly unsettling situations. This is a major challenge, not only for moderate Islam, as it is practised by the vast majority of German Muslims, but also for the churches, who are generally interested in interreligious dialogue. The more successful the inclusion, the less need there is for fundamentalist religion. Karle concludes that migration is a great challenge for practical theology. It has to reflect the consequences of globalization and faith transmission for Western theology. And it should expand its empirical research of migrant communities in European Churches in order to learn from these communities about notions of home and hospitality.

Part 3 deals with the themes Public Discourse and Religious Practice in which issues of vulnerability and agency are negotiated. Practices such as Pentecostal healing, interpreting the bible as a spiritual, cultural and political resource for people on the move and addressing issues about migration in preaching and public speech will be brought to the fore.

Henrietta M. Nyamnjoh explores migrants’ mobile trajectories within various Pentecostal churches in their efforts to seek divine healing and salvation. Exploring the mobile (trans)national trajectories of Cameroonian migrants within various Pentecostal churches in South Africa and beyond who are in search of physical, spiritual and psycho-social healing, she examines the extent to which religious mobility is a panacea for divine healing among Cameroonian migrants. Nyamnjoh interrogates the extent to which mobility within Pentecostal churches fulfils the quest for divine healing among Cameroonian migrants. She develops her reflections against the backdrop of globalization that has been fuelled, not just by the intercontinental exchanges of goods and services of the commercial kind, but also by a desire to export religious ideologies of healing including the sale of religious memorabilia for healing purposes.

Julius-Kei Kato and Jione Havea show how the practice of biblical interpretation can be an abundant resource for attending to issues of migration. In his essay Kato demonstrates how the pathos of migrant life, when used intentionally as a hermeneutical and theological paradigm, can be a poignant locus for theology and biblical studies. In this way it can make these disciplines more capable of conversing with the different realities of our contemporary globalised world in which migration is taking place in various ways, everywhere and all the time. Kato draws insights from different sources. For example, the theology of migration proposed by Peter Phan suggests that God can be understood as a migrant and that migrants can be considered an image of this migrant God, especially in their experiences of suffering. Kato also utilises David Tracy’s steps for interpretation as an approach that lets the many painful experiences of migrants be a hermeneutical tool to face and converse with the suffering messiah of Mark’s gospel. In this way, it becomes evident that the life experiences of migrants are indeed a source of immense richness for the theological and biblical enterprise.

Jione Havea offers an overview of selected migration narratives in the Hebrew Bible through a process he calls Pasifikation. He draws on the grassroots Sorong-Samarai movement, which is currently underway in Papua, and aims to revive the connections between indigenous West Papua (under occupation by Indonesia since 1961) and Papua New Guinea. The movement hosted a migration of the Wairon (from Nusi, Biak) from Sorong (western tip of West Papua) to Samarai (eastern tip of PNG) in 2018, offering interesting perspectives: that migration is for the purpose of reconnecting people and cultures, opposing empires and colonialism and establishing solidarity with other Pasifika lands under occupation.

The final two essays discuss the practice of preaching and public speech in regard to migration. HyeRan Kim-Cragg articulates a deficit in the engagement of migration in homiletics. Since migration is a global phenomenon of unprecedented magnitude, she begs scholars of religion, including homileticians, to heed migration as an urgent locus of theological reflection. By using a case study that is situated in Canada she interrogates the problem of representation and the white gaze or othering in relation to being at home or finding oneself in an unhomely place. Proceeding from this examination Kim-Cragg draws out a homiletical response to migration, nuancing the meanings of hospitality by blurring the host/guest dichotomy. Finally, she identifies homiletical tasks to engage migration issues in terms of biblical exegesis and preaching practices to shed light on the insights of and be in conversation with several scholars who have suggested the issues of hospitality and home as themes in homiletics.

Jula Elene Well reflects on the challenges that come to the fore in preaching and public speech in addressing conflicts around migration politics. During the so-called Refugee Crisis (2015/2016) nationalistic thoughts and movements became manifest in Germany. The churches responded with practical aid for refugees and a strong and irreversible credo forawelcoming society and against xenophobia. Representatives of Public Theology enriched the public discourse with fundamental questions such as: Can there be a limit to humanitarianism? Many political sermons provided a clear and strong moral orientation at that time. Simultaneously, public debates were frequently characterised by exclusion and separation; defamatory comments about dissidents also occurred in religious discourse. Christians, however, who share nationalistic thoughts felt violated by such defamatory remarks. Obviously, the outraged rhetoric of distinction runs counter to the intention of the efforts of the church to strengthen humanitarianism and solidarity within the world society. While the attitude of the majority of Christians towards xenophobia seems to be obvious, the handling of conflicting opinions needs further clarification.

Finally, we hope that readers will find this book and its conversational journey helpful. Together, the chapters call for robust scholarship on religion that is in conversation with migration studies. Such scholarly work is in need of a delicate and deliberate theoretical discourse, which is non-binary between theory and practice, between mundane and sacred, between secular and religious, and between host and guest.

We hope this book serves as an invitation to all who are interested in nuancing the intricacies that are integral to the diversity of migration experiences that are implicated in religious communities. It strives to offer a sustained and nuanced articulation of ambiguity and ambivalence, promise and peril that are involved in migration as a nexus of and locus for theological reflection and for negotiating sites of hospitality, agency and vulnerability.

I. Migrants’ Agency and Changing Landscapes of Religion

Transnational Migration and the Travelling of Religious Beliefs

Ludger Pries and Rafael Bohlen

1. Cross-Border Migration in the 21st Century

Migration is a crucial part of social action, social order and of social change. As a geographic-spatial mobility inside or across national boundaries, it is always related to social mobility and social change. People migrate due to lack of opportunities, to discrimination or (as refugees) even to existential persecution. When arriving in a new social context, they will learn new values, custom, attitudes, and beliefs. Some social ties to the region of departure will be cut, others will remain. New social relations and social fields will develop. In short, migration is always not just a geographic-spatial movement of individuals but a collective action and social negotiation (between family members and socio-cultural-ethnic groups). That being said, it is obvious that international migration is rarely a singular one-point-in-time-event, but is normally an iterative-sequential, long lasting, reversible process. Almost a third of the emigrants, who left Europe during the last quarter of the 19th century and until World War I towards the Americas, turned back to Europe – although this had not been the initial plan. The dynamics of arrival of migrant groups depend on the complex interplay and mutual influence between them and the already or still sedentary groups. Transnational ties and transnational social spaces could maintain and stabilize over many generations. Although many theories of migration try to isolate and explain the driving forces of migration, in general it has to be seen as structured by complex mixed motives with economic, political, social and cultural elements; and as a mixture of voluntary and involuntary components. Finally, individual and collective migration is always entangled in historically grown and socially institutionalized regimes and pluri-local and multi-level configurations of power, interests and beliefs.1

Based on this very nature of migration, religion and religious beliefs obviously play a crucial role in migration processes. First and foremost, all migrants have some kind of religion or moral beliefs.2 Even if they have to leave back in their regions of departure all of their loved artefacts like furniture, books and pictures, they will carry with them their world views and faith. So religion and beliefs always travel with migrants. As sketched out above, during the journey and after arrival in a new place circumstances are often insecure and volatile. This strengthens, refreshes or refurbishes sets of beliefs as demonstrated in the history of Puritan pilgrims, Amish people or Jews who left Europe and immigrated to the Americas. »Ethnicity and religion are both institutions with organized belief systems, but religion appeals to more intensely held beliefs and values. As a result, one would imagine that immigrant religions would persist longer than ethnicities, but in fact, most seem to have disappeared more quickly.«3 At the same time, in the regions of arrival migrants are often confronted with other kinds of mind settings and faith. This could lead to shifting or melting or hybridizing beliefs. The concept of travelling theories focuses on the societal embedding of production of social theories and on the changes by which these theories are normally affected when shifting from one societal context to another.4 This also holds for religious sets of framing and faith.

The direction of impacts of migration on religion is twofold: Migration could change the religious beliefs in the region of arrival. But migration could also cause shifting beliefs in the regions of departure. This could be shown by the migrationreligion-nexus in North America. With a stock of almost 50 million foreign born residents the USA concentrates the world’s highest number of immigrants.5 During the 20th century, these immigrants mostly came from countries with dominant Christian beliefs, like Europe and Latin America (since the end of the last century, Asian immigrants passed by those from Latin America). For the earlier immigrants from Europe, religious beliefs had a strong impact in the USA and, at the same time, changed while travelling:

»Most of the 1870–1924 European immigrants were Catholics and Jews, and since they were mainly peasants and small-town people, their religious beliefs, practices and organizations reflected the localities and regions from which they came. Consequently, these diverged in some respects from the Catholicism and Judaism of America’s native-borns. Thus, Southern Italian immigrants who had been used to their region’sMarian Catholicism, which gave special emphasis to the Virgin Mary, had to get used to the dominant American Catholicism.«6

During the second half of the 20th century, especially the influx of Catholic Latin American immigrants changed dramatically the composition of the US American population by religion.7 At the same time, this led to changes in the religious identity of these immigrants.8 But there were also substantial impacts of Mexican transnational migration to the USA. At least partly as an effect of labourmigration from Mexico to the USA and the ongoing social relations and interchanges between both countries, Protestantism expanded in Mexico in the regions of migrants’ departure.9 All this makes the case of transnational migration between Mexico and the USA a prominent example of the interrelations between migration and religion. In the following, first the volume and nature of migration between the two countries will be sketched out (section 2). Then the shifting of religious beliefs and practices will be shown by examples of Our Lady of Guadalupe (section 3). Finally, some conclusions will be drawn.

2. The Mexican-US American Transnational Migration Regime

The border between Mexico and the USA – and the related migration studies – are of paramount importance for the analysis of cross-border migration in general. Approximately6million trucks, 2.3 million passengers in buses, 141 million passenger cars and 42.2 million pedestrians were registered in almost fifty legal border crossings in 2016. In addition, hundreds of thousands of unregistered crossings of refugees and migrant workers are reported annually.10 In contrast to all statements on an already existing, to-be-built or in-progress border-wall between the USA and Mexico, this border seems highly permeable. Cross-border labour migration between Mexico and the USA amounts to at least half a million Mexican nationals yearly (temporary visa, mainly H-1B, H-2A, long-term emigrants, nonregular resident).11 In addition to the size of flows, the stock of Mexican migrants living in the USA is significant. Taking only the number of Mexican-born persons working in 2015 in the USA (some 7.7 million), this accounts for about 3 per cent of the total number of employed persons in the USA (of about 256 million) and is equivalent to about 15% of the population employed in Mexico (of around 52 million).12

Another approximation to the dynamics of recent migratory movements from Mexico to the USA is the number of immigrants per country of origin registered annually, as listed in the Yearbooks of immigration statistics. There is a slight increase in documented immigration in the period after World War II, which however reduces to the end of the 1980 s to less than one hundred thousand annual immigrations from Mexico. Only between 1989 and 1991 there was an exceptional increase in registered Mexican in the USA due to the IRCA legislation.13 From 2000 to the year 2014, legal immigration moved to an average level of 160,000. The figure only represents registered new entries of Mexicans into the USA (visas for immigrants, legal foreign residents, and for persons temporarily residing in the country). Permanent visa are awarded since decades, mainly for family reunification.14

The most striking outcome of this historical and up-to-date intensive transnational migration dynamics between both countries is the volume of the stock of migrants with Mexican roots in the USA. They represent the largest immigrant group in the USA.15 The intense economic, political, cultural and social exchange relations between the two countries go far back in time, they existed even before the presence of both nation states in today’s form. Indigenous communities on both sides of the border are still relying on a pre-colonial common history and ancestors.16 If we add Mexican-born and naturalized persons, Mexicans with permanent residence permit, certain registered Mexican non-immigrants (such as students, refugees) and irregular Mexican residents in the USA, the number raised constantly from less than one million in 1970 to almost 12 million immigrants in 2015.17 Counting all residents in the USA with regular residence status and Mexican roots (including the born-citizenship of at least one parent), the American Community Survey estimates even 31 million people in 2010.18 Since about 2006, the number of Mexican-born immigrants stagnated at just under 12 million. Some scholars hold that stocks and flows of migration are stagnating since the 21st century.19 Others state a recovery in both aspects.20 In any case, the momentum of the migrant population in the USA with Mexican roots could hardly be overestimated. One out of ten citizen living in the USA is of Mexican descent.

But also the other way round, the repercussion of Mexican migration to the USA on the economic, political, socio-cultural and also religious dynamics in Mexico are tangible. Remittances are an indicator of the economic and social ties between or across countries. Delgado/Márquez emphasize the NAFTA agreement of 1994 as a catalyst for the labour migration from Mexico to the USA, making remittances an important instrument for Mexico to obtain foreign exchange.21 Behind the more populous countries China and India (and the Philippines with an explicit labour migrants exporting strategy) Mexico is the country with the fourth largest volume of remittances.22 Based on data of the Bank of Mexico, Balderas pointed out that remittances from the USA almost tripled from 1998 to 2004 (from 5.6 million to $15.4 million US dollars).23 They were on a par with foreign exchange income from foreign direct investments and higher than currency income from tourism.

Since the 1970s remittances from the USA to Mexico grew steadily up to the economic crisis of 2007/2008.24 Some scholars assumed that due to restrictive border controls, a tense labour market situation in the USA and increasing racism towards Latinos and especially Mexicans (especially since the 2015 presidential election campaign) transnational social ties would decrease. In fact, since 2009, the money refunds have risen again and have already exceeded the pre-crisis level.25 Even if the actual volume of cross-border mobility and the stock of Mexican migrants in the USA would be stagnating during the last years (as argued by some scholars), remittances flows indicate strong ongoing transnational social ties. These transnational social connections and cross-border labour mobility figure as self-sustaining and mutually stabilizing. According to Passel/Suro remittances are not influenced only by macro-economic trends but also by family networks. »These networks can greatly facilitate new migration by providing access to housing, information about work opportunities and the comfort of familiar faces in a new land.«26

Classic migration theories suggested that remittances flows would decrease according to the maturity of migration and the stable settlement of migrants in the country of arrival. In the case of Mexico-USA-migration we have strong evidence that during centuries intense economic, socio-cultural and family relations stabilized in a way that these transnational social relations institutionalized in transnational social spaces. The latter could be understood as dense and stable configurations of social practices, arrangements of artefacts and systems of symbols. Social practices could refer to daily communication that in the case of transnational social spaces is not locally limited or focused but spans between places in different countries and societies. Social practices also include the regular (minimum) yearly visiting of hometowns of ancestors for the day of the Saint of the relevant church or spending holidays in the country of origin (of ancestors).

Artefacts that reflect dense transnational social spaces are, for example, radio or TV antenna in distant rural areas where these such technical infrastructure reflects the use of transnational broadcasting between e. g. cities in California and the Mixteca Poblana in Mexico.27 Finally, the element of systems of symbols in transnational social spaces could be reflected in the use of hybrid languages like the Chicano or in transnational religious ties and use of symbols like those of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

3. Travelling Religion between Mexico and the USA:
The Case of Our Lady of Guadalupe

This section directs empirical findings on the role of religion and its shifting contents and functions in the process of transnational migration. The example of Our Lady of Guadalupe and its modifications and hybridizations during and after the (im)migration process was chosen, because it is by far the most significant one for Catholic Latin Americans and in particular the most important religious symbol of Mexico.28 It is considered to be the foundation of Mexican Catholic belief systems and also as a crucial connection between Spanish and indigenous cultures in Mexico.29 Thus, Our Lady of Guadalupe and its contents and functions crucially overextend far beyond the sphere of traditional religion but include identity construction and almost all elements of national culture and belonging.

To deliver some background information we briefly sketch out the narrative of Our Lady of Guadalupe (for a more in-depth portrayal see for example Watson 1964). According to Catholic accounts the first appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe happened on December 9–12, 1531 in Tepeyac, Mexico: The native Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin received the vision of a woman who names herself »Virgin Mary«: »mother of the very true deity«.30 This vision – Our Lady of Guadalupe – instructs him to deliver a message to the bishop: He should build a chapel in her honour to give her the opportunity to spread her love as a compassionate mother to the people. For proving her authenticity Juan Diego carries flowers sent from Guadalupe to the bishop and her image appears on Juan Diego’s cloak.31 Her appearance was defined by dark skin and by this way marks »the emotional acceptance of a new faith, which has been aptly called Guadalupinist Catholicism«.32

To this day, she is recognized as the most famous patroness of Latin America altogether, but more importantly as the patroness of Mexico and its most renowned Marian apparition. To grasp its relevance for the Mexican society and Latin America as a whole it is already sufficient to only take a brief look at the numbers of pilgrims, who visit the place where according to Juan Diego the Virgin appeared for the first time in 1531 and now is part of the Metropolitan area of the valley of Mexico City. In the area of the Villa de Guadalupe (and the »Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe«) in Mexico City there are some 20 million religious visitors every year – which makes it the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world.33

Besides its crucial meaning in religious affairs, Our Lady of Guadalupe is an essential national symbol and has been playing an influential part in building Mexico’s national identity. During the Mexican War of Independence (1810–1821) she grew into the role as the patroness of Mexico in its resistance against the Spaniards – she appeared in the famous Grito de Dolores (Cry of Dolores) from 1810 that initiated the Mexican fight for independence with the prominent wording of the Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla:

»My children: a new dispensation comes to us today. Will you receive it?Will you free yourselves?Will you recover the lands stolen three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards?Wemust act at once […] Will you defend your religion and your rights as true patriots? Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe! Death to bad government! Death to the Gachupines«.34

Likewise, other honoured Latin American heroes such as Simón Bolívar (»the veneration for this image in Mexico far exceeds the greatest reverence that the shrewdest prophet might inspire«) and in 1912 Emiliano Zapata (during the Mexican Revolution) were acknowledging and praising her as a symbol for the homeland, Mexican identity and pride.35 This glorification can also be identified in contemporary history and in the presence; yet insurgent groups such as the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) is using the icon as a symbol: Guadalupe Tepeyac – EZLN’s »mobile city« – was named after Our Lady of Guadalupe.«36