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DISPLACED people need food and shelter to survive, but theres also a spiritual dimension thats rarely discussed. Thats what makes Elizabeth Storer’s article, part of an LSE series on the Politics of Return, so fascinating.
It delves into the South Sudanese refugee community that has settled in Arua, in Uganda’s northwest. For many, religion provides both an explanation for their plight notions of sin and punishment as well as solace and agency.
At the practical level, “churches offer the only semblance of institutional, psycho-social support”. For many, they are an “important unifying backbone”, where culture can be expressed rather than hidden, as well as lending “guidance on the challenges faced in exile”.
Spirituality provides a much-needed frame of reference. Understanding that evil forces are governing the actions of those committing violence “seems to explain the unexplainable”. And, through prayer, “such forces can be reversed by ordinary people”, distant from the conflict. Above all, it delivers hope: that the route home lies in atonement for venality and corruption, and personal redress for sins.