Whiteness, Religious Diversity and Relational Belonging
Opportunities and Challenges for African Migrants in Australia
Keywords:migration, African, religion and spirituality, racism, belonging, Australia
African communities in Australia reflect the rich cultural and religious diversity of the African continent. Despite their persistence and agency, many members from these communities continue to experience a ‘fractured belonging’ due to persistent issues of racism and exclusion; issues that have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Religious community groups and organizations have long played important roles in assisting new migrants with settlement and belonging in Australia, including African migrants. This article presents preliminary findings from an Australian Research Council project on religious diversity and social cohesion, drawing on census data and interviews with African-Australian community and religious leaders in Melbourne and Hobart, from Mauritian, Ghanaian, Ethiopian, Somalian and South Sudanese communities. It explores the roles that religion and spirituality play in both addressing and perpetuating issues of racism, trauma and displacement. It also examines the development of ‘relational belonging’ and diverse, complex and dynamic identities among African migrants in contemporary Australia. It argues the case for retelling the history of African migration to Australia, to subvert the myth of a white Christian nation that excludes non-white Australians. It centres African migrants’ lived experience narratives and theories of belonging developed by African scholars to counter narrow and negative stereotypes perpetuated by political and media discourses.
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