The Resources of Religious Humanitarianism

The Case of Migrants on Lampedusa


  • John A. Rees The University of Notre Dame Australia
  • Stefania Rawson The University of Notre Dame Australia



humanitarianism, Catholic Church, Religion, Lampedusa, Migration, Pope Francis


In the contemporary flow of irregular migrants worldwide, the predicaments of humanitarian work have become a source of public controversy and political disputation. Situated in the discourse of religion in international relations (IR), this introductory article considers conduct available to religious actors in response to the humanitarian challenge. Drawing on the case of refugees reaching the Italian territory of Lampedusa, the article offers a consideration of Pope Francis' visit to the island in 2013 via two interpretive modes of IR postsecularism. This approach, we argue, highlights the value of postsecular IR frameworks to interpret different dimensions of religious agency and to understand the unique resources available to religious actors in humanitarian advocacy.

Author Biographies

John A. Rees, The University of Notre Dame Australia

John A. Rees, PhD, is Associate Professor of International Relations and Director of the Institute for Ethics & Society at The University of Notre Dame Australia. John is a recognised scholar of religion in international relations (IR). John's research is situated at the intersection of international policy and religious practice. John translates his research on religious identity and organisational change to the field of global ethics and the role institutions play in society, economy and politics. He is the author of Religion in International Politics and Development: The World Bank & Faith Institutions (Edward Elgar, 2011). His work has been included in the international primer Religion & Foreign Affairs: Essential Readings (Baylor, 2012), a special issue on postsecularism in Politics, Religion & Ideology (2014) and the Handbook of Research on Development and Religion (2013). Most recently, John was senior editor for two special issues: 'The Politics of Religious Freedom in the Asia-Pacific' (Journal of Religious and Political Practice, 2019) and 'Reading Laudato Si' in the Asia-Pacific' (Philippiniana Sacra, 2017). He holds a PhD and Masters in IR (UNSW), an award-winning Research Masters in Political Theology (SCD), and a Masters with research in Early Christian & Jewish Studies (Macq).

Stefania Rawson, The University of Notre Dame Australia

Stefania Varnero Rawson, PhD, is Adjunct Lecturer at the Institute of Ethics & Society at The University of Notre Dame Australia. She has worked on Habermas' and Rawls' international thought and democratic theory, with special focus on citizen participation, public sphere and deliberative democracy. She currently conducts research on Catholic social justice, migration and the change of constituent powers in democracy. Her publications include Colombia: Paolo VI Viaggi Apostolici (Brescia, 2000); 'The Nihil and Alienation of Asylum Seekers' (Inter-Disciplinary, 2012); 'Political Indifference: A Progressive Disempowerment of Democracy or a Collective Disenchantment with Democracy?' (AUSPSA, 2014); 'Democracy and the Dynamics of Indifference' (Perspective, 2016); and 'Pope Francis' Affirmative Ecology for Pacific Islands Indigenous Community' (Philippiniana Sacra, 2017). She holds a PhD in Political Science from The University of Notre Dame Australia, an MALD in International Relations and International Law from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, USA, and an MA in Political Philosophy and Modern History, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy.


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How to Cite

Rees, J. A., & Rawson, S. (2019). The Resources of Religious Humanitarianism: The Case of Migrants on Lampedusa. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 31(2), 172–191.