Theology of Migration: Toward a Comparative Conceptualization

Uriya Shavit, Galia Sabar, Andrew Esensten, Teresa Harings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article introduces the concept of “theology of migration” in a comparative analysis of texts by religious leaderships that portray migration as the fulfillment of a religious call. Based on a reading of primary sources and field studies, five cases are examined: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, the Islamic wasati approach, the Jewish Hasidic Chabad movement, and African Independent Churches built by labor migrants in Israel. The article distinguishes between “proactive-adaptive” and “retrospective-adaptive” theologies of migration. The former constitute repeatedly modified theological calls for religious communities to move from one land to another, while the latter constitute legitimizations of already existing migrations that were motivated by temporal considerations and that challenged religious norms. Analysis reveals theologies to be dynamic, evolving corpuses and suggests that the potential of migrating religious groups to endure physical setbacks and moral challenges is dependent on the ability of their leaderships to accommodate their theological narratives to changing circumstances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-38
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Levantine Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • African churches
  • African Hebrew Israelites
  • Chabad
  • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
  • Islamic wasati
  • Israel
  • Migration
  • Mormons
  • Religious studies


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