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Religion and Migrant Rights

On December 11, 2011

Religion is a powerful force in the Middle East, one that can and should be harnessed to promulgate the rights of non-citizens. Religion need not be abused as a tool of social engineering, but can rather be resourced for its pre-existing ethical and social framework; religion can bind leaders, activists, regular citizens, and migrants themselves into the same social initiative - one that is civilian-powered and consequently holds a far greater potential to be permanently and more deeply intrenched into society than legislative remedies. Religious groups themselves can also form or empower social movements to lobby governments to enact labor justice protections.

Two recent articles approach the role of Christianity and Islam in shaping migrant rights, in both social and legal spheres. One piece details global migrant discussions at the World Council of Churches conference in Beiruit, which attracted migrants and migrant leaders from across the world. Themes contributors emphasized centered on the importance of inclusiveness in religious communities, as well as the use of religious space to promote multiculturism and equality.

An article featured in The National lays out an Islamic approach to foreign workers' rights. The theological perspective highlights the roles of "justice, equality, safety, security, and human dignity" in Islam, concepts precursory to true labor justice. It also notes the disparities between the sponsorship system and Islam, offering potential resolutions with Islamic finance principles that balance the rights of employers and employees.

Both pieces focus not only on religious principles that support fair treatment of migrant workers, but on the community-based activism that religious groups should pursue. While religion is certainly not the only ethical guide, nor the only form of organization, it is an exceptionally comprehensive social apparatus that can potentially wield widespread influence in support of migrant rights.