Original Research - Special Collection: New Landscapes in Identity

Church’s response to migrants’ quest for identity formation

John S. Klaasen
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 3 | a6646 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i3.6646 | © 2021 John S. Klaasen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 March 2021 | Published: 15 June 2021

About the author(s)

John S. Klaasen, Department of Religion and Theology, Faculty of Arts, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa


Migration has received diverse responses from the dominant powers in the political, social and religious spheres. Assimilation, domination and cohesion are some of the responses to the integration of people who cross regional and national borders and reside within their new locations for a considerable period of time. These responses include both positives, which are largely short-term solutions, with a lot of losses and trauma for the migrants. The reasons for these kinds of responses lie in the factors that cause and influence migration. Political and religious conflict, economics, societal factors such as language and culture, health issues such HIV or AIDS and other pandemics and environmental factors are some of the causes of migration.

Contribution: This research will contribute to determining the relationship between the church and migration for identity formation. The question I wish to explore is how the church can respond to the quest for identity which shapes the social welfare and cultural co-existence of the South African society and migrants in post-apartheid South Africa. Because of the complexity of identity and the effect that migration has (had) on shaping identity, I will first provide a description of migration and identity. The article will then address the factors that cause migration and the possible ways in which migration can shape identity. A brief discussion of a theology of migration will be introduced. This will be followed by a critical discussion of how the church as a pilgrim community can contribute to identity formation and the peaceful co-existence of differentiated people.


migration; church; identity; theology of migration; pilgrim church; hospitality; imago Dei.


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