The Amsterdam Centre for Religion and Peace & Justice Studies periodically holds what we call expert-meetings with the students of the master’s specialization Peace, Trauma, and Religion. The last expert meeting was a joint event with the students of the master’s specialisation Building Interreligious Relations and the Research Institute for Culture, Cognition, History and Heritage. The guest speaker was Prof. Dr Najib Awad, attempting to decipher the genome of ‘Crisis’ in the ‘refugee crisis’.
The lecture was divided into two parts. In the first part, Dr Awad introduced two notions: immigrants and refugees, and emphasising that migration is a volatile action. In other words: migration involves the notion that people voluntarily move from their country. One example that was given was the narrative of Dr Awad himself, who left Syria years ago with the intent to seek knowledge.
Over and against ‘migration’ stands the notion of ‘refugee,’ which involves a non-volatile act. Refugees do not want to leave their country, but are forced to do so by circumstances. As an example, Dr Awad referred to his brother as part of this group. This difference, though seemingly straightforward, is often downplayed. Furthermore, non-volatile movement creates a completely different process of identity formation than volatile movement, an aspect that, according to Dr Awad, is often forgotten.
During the second part, Dr Awad introduced his hermeneutical perspective towards the concept ‘refugee crisis’. He explained that using the word ‘crisis’ has a great impact on the way people view the arriving refugees, as the word ‘crisis’ has a negative connotation. Consequently, the country is divided into the hosting people (the citizens of hosting countries), and the hosted people (the refugees). Leaving a society divided, where social processes such as ‘othering’ increasingly occur.
Dr Awad continued by proposing a solution by introducing a concept he developed named ‘the hermeneutical tripod’. With this notion he tries to unproblematize the divisions in society by focusing on combining identity, othering, and relationality.