Faith-based organizations have long served as key partners to UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) in providing services and protection to refugees and migrants. They include Lutheran World Federation, Islamic Relief Worldwide, and Caritas, a federation of 165 Catholic organizations.
For example, after the 2011 Côte d’Ivoire presidential elections, over half a million people were displaced. Local faith institutions and FBOs including parishes of the Roman Catholic Church, Caritas, Muslim mosques and communities, and Charismatic groups, stepped up to provide immediate emergency shelters and humanitarian assistance
An April 2018 study by Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA) and Boston College’s Center for Social Innovation highlighted dozens of pioneering faith-based programs providing protection for refugees and migrants (FADICA 2018, 1). These programs address root causes of migration, provide protection in transit, and facilitate successful resettlement through the provision of shelter, skills training, and trauma-healing.
Small-scale faith-based programs can have a huge impact for individuals to whom they serve as a lifeline in the midst of a treacherous journey. The Home for Migrants Shelter “Bethlehem” in Tapachula, Mexico at the Guatemalan border is one such program (SIMN 2014). Under the leadership of Scalabrinian priest Father Florenzo Rigoni, c.s., the shelter provides respite and vital services for migrants regardless of their identities and complexities. Pregnant girls, individuals with HIV and other infectious diseases, victims of sex trafficking, former prostitutes, and transgender individuals, are all welcomed and served through the on-site provision of wrap-around medical, financial, educational, and spiritual support at the shelter.