“Prayer was the rope of survival.” “Religious needs are my primary needs.” “I wish I had been asked.” These statements were shared by displaced women in Iraq, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey in three independent, coordinated research studies in 2019 led by University of Birmingham, Queen Margaret University and Syria Bright Future in collaboration with Islamic Relief Worldwide and the Humanitarian Academy for Development. The studies examined the role of faith in coping and recovery of women in forced migration and conflict contexts.
The women in this study, like many forced migrants, suffered unspeakable hardships, experiencing loss of relatives and belongings, war and violence (including sexual and gender-based violence), lifethreatening journeys, separation from family, and powerlessness. Having once belonged to a local faith community, now, on the move, they had held onto the religion, faith and spirituality that move with them. Faith resilience and spiritual suffering – often difficult to comprehend for outsiders – influenced women’s wellbeing in varied ways. Throughout their experiences, religious identity, religious practices and religious beliefs had a profound impact on mental health, both buffering and contributing to psychological distress.

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