Video: International migration and refugees as a theological issue


“Migration is part of our deep story, it’s part of our national story, but it’s also part of our spiritual story.” 

— Rev. Daniel G. Groody, C.S.C.

Rev. Daniel G. Groody, C.S.C., is associate professor of theology and global affairs and the director of the Kellogg Global Leadership Program. His research interests include migration and the US-Mexican border, international migration, and refugees. More information can be found at his faculty page.

Video Transcript

Migration is part of our deep story, it’s part of our national story, but it’s also part of our spiritual story.

When we think about migration, we often thinking about this as a political issue or a social issue or an economic issue or a cultural issue; we don’t think about it necessarily as a theological issue, so one of the things I do is try to build bridges between disciplines and also look at what some of the deeper contours of this issue are about.

My work began in Central America and Latin America, you know, for a number of years, but it’s extended into the Middle East and to the Iraqi crisis, the Syrian crisis, but also issues of genocide in Africa, and one of the questions we ask is, “how do we think about God from the context of some of these seemingly godless situations? How do people find hope in the midst of hopeless conditions, and how do they find the strength to love, you know, and believe even in the midst of unbelievable situations?” So one way of saying that is, “In what ways is God present in the reality of these people and how do they speak about God?” 

One of the amazing things about working in a place like Notre Dame is the range of engagements that you have in working out complex issues like immigration. My base is to work with the people themselves who are migrating because I think that’s really where a lot of the strength and the power of the work comes from is listening to their stories and letting their story speak for themselves, but also working with other organizations who are trying to deal with this migrant refugee crisis, like the Vatican, like the US Congress, like the World Council of Churches, like the United Nations, in other areas where people are trying to understand this issue and they need fresh ways of opening this up.

And I think one way at Notre Dame that we’ve been trying to work through that as well is that we’re not just trying to give more information about migrants and refugees, we’re trying to stimulate a new imagination and a new imagination that can even up really even fresh ways of thinking about this ethically, and I think without changing that narrative then I think we stay in binaries that really keep us trapped in old ways of thinking of citizen/alien, legal/illegal, native/foreigner. Right now these ways aren’t working, but if we see God as the migrant who actually came into our sinful and broken territory, and if we see our journey back to God as a return migration, it’s not just about us and them: it’s really about all of us, and so the question is, how do we move from alienation as a human community, which is a result of sin, to communion, and really you know finding ourselves being one with God and one with each other again.

Originally published by Todd Boruff at on February 26, 2018.