The Role of Faith and Faith-Based Organizations among Internally Displaced Persons in Kenya


Parsitau, Damaris Seleina. 2011. “The Role of Faith and Faith-Based Organizations among Internally Displaced Persons in Kenya.” Journal of Refugee Studies 24 (3): 493–512. doi:10.1093/jrs/fer035.

Author: Damaris Seleina Parsitau


Based on ethnographic research conducted with four faith-based organizations (FBOs) in Nakuru and Nairobi, and among internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mai Mahiu IDP camp, this paper explores the multiple roles played by faith, religious convictions and practices in contexts of displacement, examining the ways in which these serve to integrate displaced persons into their new circumstances. The paper has three main aims. Firstly, through an examination of the roles played by four churches in Nakuru and Nairobi it documents the diverse forms of practical, emotional and spiritual support provided by faith-based actors to IDPs; secondly, it examines how and why certain churches were transformed from spaces of refuge to targets of violence; and finally, it examines the practical and psychological impact of faith on the formation of IDPs’ religious identities and new forms of belonging in IDP camps. The second half of the article therefore argues that IDPs have not simply relied upon externally provided support such as that delivered by the churches of Nakuru and Nairobi, but in fact draw upon their own personal and collective sense of faith and religious belief to overcome challenges compounded by displacement. Whilst recognizing the significance of assistance provided by FBOs to IDPs, the paper therefore ultimately centralizes the agency of IDPs themselves.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, IDPs, Refugee/IDP Camps, Religion Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Kenya

Year: 2011

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