The religious lives of international seafarers

23 June 2017

Captain at ship's helm

The religious and spiritual experiences of seafarers, and ministry amongst port chaplains, will be explored in a new project by Cardiff University’s Seafarers International Research Centre (SIRC).

Religion in multi-ethnic contexts, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), will examine the nature of the lived religious and spiritual experience of seafarers, port chaplains, and welfare workers.

The research will contribute to society’s understanding of how multi-faith groups peacefully co-exist, and what factors may disrupt or threaten harmony in religiously diverse populations.

It will provide insight into the needs, practices, and understandings of religious workers in contemporary ports and industrial workers on ships.

To inform better spiritual provision

The project will use multiple methods including shipboard and port-based ethnography, interviews, and documentary analysis. Archival data will also be collected, charting the historical development of chaplaincy in ports in the UK.

The project’s aims are to inform better spiritual provision by organisations working in ports; gain a better understanding of how religion and spirituality are expressed, experienced and negotiated in ports and multi-national residential workplaces; and explore the evolution of religion outside of congregations and formally designated religious sites.

Taking part in the research are Professor Helen Sampson, Director of SIRC; Professor Graeme Smith, Professor of Public Theology at the University of Chichester; Professor Sophie Gilliat-Ray, Professor in Religious and Theological Studies at Cardiff University and Director of the University’s Islam-UK centre; Dr Nelson Turgo, a research associate at SIRC; and Professor Wendy Cadge, Professor of Sociology and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University.

Professor Helen Sampson, Director of SIRC said: “This project will allow us to consider the challenges associated with working in confined institutionalised multi-faith environments...”

“It will offer us the opportunity to consider how people of different faiths can work and live harmoniously together in difficult conditions as well as the circumstances in which relationships may become strained.”

Professor Helen Sampson, Director, SIRC

Professor Sophie Gilliat-Ray, Director of Cardiff University’s Islam-UK centre added: “The project will allow us to explore the points of view of port-based chaplains who provide spiritual and welfare services to seafarers of different faiths calling at ports across the UK...”

“The project is being supported by a wide range of stakeholders and has the potential to be of considerable benefit to both seafarers and associated welfare/spiritual organisations.”

Professor Sophie Gilliat-Ray, Professor in Religious and Theological Studies, Director for the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK (Islam-UK)

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