Original Research

The role of refugee-established churches in integrating forced migrants: A case study of Word of Life Assembly in Yeoville, Johannesburg

Vedaste Nzayabino
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 66, No 1 | a290 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v66i1.290 | © 2010 Vedaste Nzayabino | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 June 2009 | Published: 17 June 2010

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Vedaste Nzayabino, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

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The increasing embeddedness of religious issues within contemporary global phenomena has increased the role religion plays in migrants’ spiritual, social, and economic lives. Drawing on the findings of the study, conducted within one of the Pentecostal migrant churches in Johannesburg, this paper explored ways in which a (migrant) church shapes a refugee’s motivation to integrate and his resultant quest for a transient alternative belonging and inclusion within diasporic communities through church affiliation. Through interviews with members of the Word of Life Assembly (WOLA), one of the independent churches established by forced migrants in Yeoville, the study revealed that refugees tend to integrate themselves within their own churches, while the refugee church itself – labelled a ‘foreign’ entity by South African community members – works to garner approval and acceptance from South Africans and faith-based institutions. Cultural and linguistic problems were identified as major barriers to a refugee’s attempts to integrate into local churches, thereby becoming important issues that need to be considered in the establishment of migrant churches within the South African host community.


religion; migration; self-integration; identity; belonging


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