Contemplating the Impact of Restrictions on the Religious Life of Ethnic Minority and Migrant Communities During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Refugeehosts – Dr. Romina Istratii, SOAS University of London – 15/6/2020

The global lockdown has had a significant impact on the ability of religious communities to gather and offer support in times of stress and illness. In this post, Dr. Romina Istratii draws on her research conducted with Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Täwahәdo adherents in Northern Ethiopia and London to describe the role of religious communities and how these roles, traditions, and practices can take on an increasingly significant role for migrants in the UK. In particular, the pastoral role of the church in providing solace and comfort in times of increased stress and illness, the reliance on church activities for social interaction and activities, the role of the church in mediating domestic abuse, and the ability of church members to seek spiritual or psychological relief. Although activities such as prayer and weekly bible studies continue on-line, it is the pastoral and support roles of the church, argues Istratii, which are most affected by the global lockdown, increasing stress and risk for migrants in the UK.

If you find this piece of interest please visit our Faith and Displacement Series or see the recommended reading at the end of this piece.

Contemplating the impact of restrictions on the religious life of ethnic minority and migrant communities during the Covid-19 pandemic

by Dr. Romina Istratii, SOAS University of London.


Extensive concerns have been raised about the disproportionate effects of the outbreak of Covid-19 on ethnic minorities in the UK, especially mediated through health risks and income loss. However, less attention has been paid to the impact of the shutdown through restrictions on the religious life of ethnic minority and migrant communities. The effects of religious experience are diverse and depend on various parameters, including the cultural fabric that individuals are socialized in theological and exegetical specificities and individual personality characteristics. As states adopt strategies to respond to the crisis, the epistemological, social, and spiritual influence of religious beliefs should be carefully considered for all communities, but especially irregular migrants who may face additional barriers in accessing health services and may find refuge in religious community life. Religious gatherings, like other social gatherings, could have provided an early conduit for virus spread, but they also serve important roles that need to be acknowledged and could be leveraged in addressing the pandemic’s consequences.