Migration and Church
Church Times Bookshop £18 (Use code
THROUGHOUT this book, it is
possible to detect Susanna Snyder's desire not only to impart
information, but also to inspire transformation: "this study seeks
to support those seeking sanctuary in their quest for new life in a
new place, and justice and liberation are its underlying
Moreover, her personal
engagement with those seeking asylum in the UK underpins and lends
much credibility to her book, which explores the encounters of
church communities with migrants and, in particular, those seeking
asylum. Snyder begins the book with one such personal encounter,
and continues to "set the scene" in Part I with a discussion of her
use of a "performative and liberatory" theological approach
mobilised in conjunction with forced-migration studies and biblical
studies to reflect critically on church praxis.
Drawing on her experience
and research in the UK, Snyder has devised four categorises that
encapsulate the various ways churches engage with migrants:
encounters of service, encounters with the powers, encounters in
worship, and encounters in theology; and these are revisited in the
final chapter, where she seeks to draw lessons from her study.
The wider context in which
these encounters are taking place is well explored and analysed in
Part II, "Flight and Fright . . .". These chapters provide a good
overview of the current global context of forced migration, and
would be helpful for anyone wanting to understand these issues, as
well as for debunking misinformation that has a way of insidiously
creeping into society, the Church included. As a result of her
analysis of the causes and consequences of fear in established
populations, Snyder introduces the notion of an "ecology of fear".
This leads into Part III, where she explores what contribution
Christianity can make "concerning how the ecology of fear may be
Beginning with a brief
overview of the theme of "strangers" in the Bible, Snyder then
turns her attention to particular biblical narratives to illustrate
"two strands" of responses to strangers identified by her as being
either from within an ecology of fear - Ezra and Nehemiah, or from
within an ecology of faith - Ruth and the Syro-Phoenician woman.
Her biblical reflections and chosen hermeneutical approach are
thought provoking, and will, it is hoped, act as a stimulus to
further biblical enquiry around the themes of justice and
hospitality for the stranger in relation to migrants and refugees
Since migration is an
important contemporary social issue that is increasingly being
politicised, it is vital that the Church knows how to respond.
Snyder's book offers a timely contribution to this debate by
exploring these issues from a Chris- tian faith perspective, and
recognising that encounters with those seeking asylum both enrich
the Church and reflect the heart of God. She aptly gives the last
word to a refugee: "If there was not a church in this country, many
people would die."
Mary Sutton is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of East
London, researching the interaction of refugees and church
communities in London.