Module 1: Forced Migration & Catholic Social Teaching

Fall 2017 - Spring 2018:

Tuesday, August 1, 2017 to Thursday, May 31, 2018

The “Introduction:  Stories That Shape Our Lives” provides an overview of the current global landscape of forced migration.  We review the history of migration since WWII, the role of the United Nations and Catholic Relief Services, explore current global trends, and learn how the Catholic Church and Catholic social teaching view migration.  

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Course materials

Learning Objectives

Provide a historical background and basis for understanding the complexity of forced migration including the role of the United Nations and international NGO’s like Catholic Relief Services.

Introduce the pedagogy that guides this e-book: See, Judge, Act.

Distinguish key terms describing the term migrant:  refugee, asylum seeker, internally displaced person, undocumented migrant, economic immigrant, and climate change refugee. 


Module resources are being added and are subject to further changes. 

Primary Resources

History of Immigration to the United States


Explore the forces behind immigration to the US and their impact on the immigrant experience using the Immigration Timeline.  Source: The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation.



Forced Migration - The Broader Context


The World's Congested Human Migratrion Routes in 5 Maps.  Source: National Geographic News.  Published: September 19, 2015.


International Organization for Migration's Global Migration Trends 2015 Fact Sheet documents the state of migration around the world.  It provides facts and figures on the stock, characteristics, and geography of global migration and summarizes key facts and figures on these topics: forced migration, irregular migration, forced and voluntary return, migrant deaths, human trafficking, remittances, and public opinion.  Published: 2015.  20 pages. 


“The end of the war in Europe was only the beginning of the suffering for millions of people left homeless by the fighting, released from captivity or expelled as an act of vengeance,” says Bernard Wassertein in European Refugee Movements After World War Two (Source:  Last updated: February 17, 2011).  Europe’s refugee crisis: last time around was much, much worse provides another perspective.  (Author: R M Douglas.  Source: Fortune Magazine.  Published: September 18, 2015.)

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees


Forced Displacement hits a record high in 2015. See a map of the UN Refugee Agency’s findings on these trends, access the full report, Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2015, or watch a 5-minute video.  Posted June 20, 2016. 


“The 1951 Refugee Convention is the key document that forms the basis of our work.  Ratified by 145 State parties, it defines the term ‘refugee’ and outlines the rights of the displaced as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them.”  Access the Refugee Convention and related topics.    


Human Mobility in the Context of Climate Change UNFCCC-Paris COP-21 “answers questions about migration, displacement, and planned relocation in the context of climate change, and suggests recommendations for COP21.”  Published: November, 2015.  9 pages.


The 2015 Global Child Protection, Education and SGBV* Strategy Implementation Report outlines the results achieved during the year toward the three protection strategies, previously identified in 2013, in strategic priority countries.  This third Report was prepared as part of UNHCR’s global monitoring framework for UNHCR protection strategies.  Published: 2015.  44 pages.   *SGBV = Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

The Catholic Church, Catholic Social Teaching, and Migration


In February 2017, Pope Francis said "the protection of migrants is a moral duty." Further, “the challenges of migration and the promotion of peace cannot be tackled without development and integration.” Listen to a 2:24 minute video and read Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to Participants in the International Forum on “Migration and Peace.  Source: News.VA.  Published: February 21, 2017.   


On July 14, 2014, “Pope Francis sent a message to the ‘Mexico/Holy See Colloquium on Migration and Development’ urging protection for tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who are migrating North from Central America and Mexico in increasing numbers.”  Read about the Holy Father’s letter, hear a 1:36 minute radio report, and read a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s message.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) - The Agency


Formed in 1943 by the Roman Catholic Bishops of the United States, CRS puts the Catholic “faith into action to help the world’s poorest create lasting change.” For more the work of CRS, see their Mission Statement, a description of their work overseas, information about CRS Student Ambassadors, and a copy of the 2015 annual report.

Refugee Stories from Catholic Relief Services (CRS)


Deacon Steve Swope describes meeting a female Syrian refugee in Understanding Syrian Refuges, One Story at a Time.  She says, “My children have not lived at all. They have done nothing wrong, why should they die?” This essay was excerpted from a blog series Swope wrote about his trip to the Balkans.  Published: February 11, 2016.


Many athletes dream of competing in the Olympics.  But what if you are a refugee?  Read about the first ever refugee team to compete at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.  Author: Edward O'N. Hoyt. Published: August 10, 2016.


Kevin Hartigan, CRS regional director for the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia, marked the 5-year anniversary of the Syrian war reflecting on how 5 years of war inside the country has affected the region.  Author: Nikki Gamer.  Published: March 14, 2016.


Refugee children, dealing with trauma, and peace building.  A CRS project uses No Strings International puppetry to help Syrian children – many traumatized by war – deal with their emotions. (Author: Nikki Gamer.  Published: November 5, 2015.)  As Barb Fraze reports,   “(w)hen puppets meet refugees, healing begins for children.” (Source Catholic News Service.  Published November 6, 2014.)

A Moment for Grace: A Prayer for Refugees


A prayer for protection for refugees—particularly those fleeing Northern Africa for Europe—as well as for personal transformation as we face the needs of refugees everywhere.

Secondary Resources

Additional Readings

Collier, Elizabeth W. and Charles Strain, ed. Religious and Ethical Perspectives on Global Migration. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2014.

Massey, Douglas, Jorge Durand and Nolan J. Malone. Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Immigration in an Era of Economic Integration.  New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2003.