• Between Israel and the Holy Land, between the Global and the Local: The Role of African Initiated Churches within African Transnational Migration to Israel

    In this paper I examine, in the context of transnational migration, the role of African churches that were initiated and operated by African labor migrants in Israel between the late 1990s and 2008. The focus is on the expanding sociopolitical arena of the churches, paying special attention to the bridges they tried to create between their members and Christianity in the Holy Land, sister churches back home, and similar churches in other, non-African countries (mainly in Europe and North America). On a more theoretical level, I show how focusing on the expanding role of the churches—an expansion that was both inward, to satisfy the ever-increasing needs of the churches’ members, and outward, to the “world”—offers a unique contribution to our understanding of transnational diasporic Christianity. It also enables us to better understand African labor migrants as active agents in the complex processes of shaping their own religious identity, thus creating what I term “transnational mobile Christianity,” or “transnational Christianity in motion.” The paper is based on qualitative ethnography, including over two hundred open-ended, in-depth interviews held in Israel, Europe, and West Africa, conducted mostly in English, as well as over a thousand hours of observations of different church-related activities.

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  • Theology of Migration: Toward a Comparative Conceptualization

    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.

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