Sacred Connections: Using Faith-based Narratives to Create Matricentric Empowerment Spaces for Syrian Refugee Women

Main Article Content

Kayte Thomas


interfaith, refugees, social work, Christian, Muslim, Syria, matricentric support, empathy, empowerment


Christian social workers are called by both faith and professional ethics to welcome refugees. The Syrian conflict has created the largest refugee crisis the world has ever known, and while women and children are extremely vulnerable, the unique needs of refugee mothers are often overlooked in both policy and practice. Great importance is placed on motherhood roles in both Western and Arabic cultures, and providing targeted support to uplift refugee mothers can have significant positive ramifications as Syrian refugees resettle into their new lives. Guided by Brené Brown’s insights on empathy and drawing parallels from crossover stories of Biblical women in both Christian and Islamic traditions, the author uses sacred connections to build empathy and enact social change. This paper highlights ways that Christian social workers can adopt a matricentric (mother-focused) approach and provides a recommended interfaith model for intervention with Syrian refugee mothers.

Abstract 190 |


Acim, R. (2017). Underage Syrian refugee girls at an impasse. Journal of Identity and Migration Studies, 11(2), 121-135.
Ahmed, A., Bowen, A., & Feng, C. X. (2017). Maternal depression in Syrian refugee women recently moved to Canada: A preliminary study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 17(1), 1-11.
Alfadhli, K., & Drury, J. (2018). The role of shared social identity in mutual support among refugees of conflict: An ethnographic study of Syrian refugees in Jordan. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 28(3), 142–55.
Al-Natour, A., Al-Ostaz, S. M., & Morris, E. J. (2019). Marital violence during war conflict: The lived experience of Syrian refugee women. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 30(1), 32–38.
Barkdull, C., Khaja, K., Queiro-Tajalli, I., Swart, A., Cunningham, D., & Dennis, S. (2011) Experiences of Muslims in four western countries post 9/11. Affilia, 26(2). 139–153.
Barker, M. (2013). Mary’s Motherhood Matters Most. Compass (10369686), 47(1), 33–38.
Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you're supposed to be and embrace who you are.
Constantineanu, C. (2018). Hospitality and welcome as Christian imperatives in relation to ‘the other.’ Transformation, 35(2), 109–116.
Fadda-Conrey, C. (2011). Arab American citizenship in crisis: Destabilizing representations of Arabs and Muslims in the US after 9/11. MFS Modern Fiction Studies, 57(3), 532–555.
Goss-Reaves, L., Crouso, L. S., & Lefdahl-Davis, E. (2018). Bearing god's image to all people: A social worker's response to the sojourner. Social Work and Christianity, 45(3), 10-18.
Ibrahim, M. Z. (2015). Ibn Ḥazm’s theory of prophecy of women: Literalism, logic, and perfection. Intellectual Discourse, 23(1), 75–100.
Lokot, M. (2018). Syrian refugees: Thinking beyond gender stereotypes. Forced Migration Review, (57), 33-35.
López Pérez, E., & Haers, J. (2012). JRS: Faith doing justice: Discernment from and with refugees. Gregorianum, 93(3), 549–72.
Mansour, K. (2018). Protecting the dignity of displaced Syrians. Forced Migration Review, (57), 5-6.
McKinnon, S. L. (2009). ‘Bringing new hope and new life’: The rhetoric of faith-based refugee resettlement agencies. Howard Journal of Communications, 20(4), 313–332.
Murphy, R. F. T. (2012). Sista-hoods: revealing the meaning in Hagar’s narrative. Black Theology, 10(1), 77–92.
News. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Ozkaleli, U. (2018). Displaced selves, dislocated emotions and transforming identities: Syrian refugee women reinventing selves. Women’s Studies International Forum, 70, 17–23.
Pigott, S. M. (2018). Hagar: The M/Other patriarch. Review & Expositor, 115(4), 513–28.
Reiss, M. (2010). Miriam rediscovered. Jewish Bible Quarterly, 38(3).
Rosen, A. (2013) Changing the family portrait: Hagar and Sarah in art and interfaith dialogue. Religion Compass, 7(5), 179–89.
RSA, T. (2013). Brené Brown on Empathy. Retrieved from
Scribner, T. (2017). You are not welcome here anymore: Restoring support for refugee resettlement in the age of Trump. Journal on Migration and Human Security, 5(2), 263-284.
Sherwood, Y. (2014). Hagar and Ishmael: The reception of expulsion. Interpretation, 68(3). 286-304.
Sim, A., Bowes, L., & Gardner, F. (2019). The promotive effects of social support for parental resilience in a refugee context: A cross-sectional study with Syrian mothers in Lebanon. Prevention Science.
Stevealley1970. (2007). Shame & Empathy by Dr. Brené Brown. Retrieved from
Steyn, J., & Yousaf, A. (2010). Jesus and the marginalized: attaching pastoral meaning to Luke 4:14-30. Acta Theologica, 30(2), 152-170.
Syria. (2011). Retrieved from
United Nations. (n.d.). What is a refugee? Retrieved from
Upal, H. M. (2005). A celebration of mothering in the Qur’an. Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering, 7(1), 86-97.
Vervliet, M., De Mol, J., Broekaert, E., & Derluyn, I. (2014). ‘That I live, that’s because of her’: Intersectionality as framework for unaccompanied refugee mothers. The British Journal of Social Work, 44(7), 2023–2041.
Wouk, J. M. (2013). Re-Calling our HerStory: Miriam the prophetess. Canadian Woman Studies, 30(2–3). 90-97.
Wright, C. J. H, & Măcelaru, M.V. (2018). The refugee crisis – A shared human condition: An old testament perspective. Transformation, 35(2), 91–101.
Zucker, D. J. (2017). Viewing Yokheved (Jochebed). Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 14(1), 1–22.