Pastor, Scholar Peláez-Díaz Studies Religion and Migration

Forum for Theological Exploration Doctoral Fellow hopes to change the public perception of immigration.

As an immigrant pastor who served in a city with a rapidly growing immigrant population, Francisco Peláez-Díaz's research interests were sparked early on by the stories of trauma he heard within his community, and amplified by the tragic circumstances of the migratory waves from Africa to Europe. Those global migrations confirmed for him the “importance and urgency of addressing and analyzing the causes, consequences, and implications of such migrations.”

Peláez-Díaz, ThM ’13, was awarded The Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE) Doctoral Fellowship to complete his research into “understanding the ways in which religion plays a role in the whole process of migrating and, more specifically, in the process through which the responsibility of immigrant-receiving countries can be brought up through religious expressions as part of the potential solutions to irregular migratory movements.”

One thing Peláez-Díaz says he hopes to accomplish with his doctoral research is to change the public perception of the immigrant phenomenon in the U.S. “My research focuses on the notion of the “crucified people” for theological reframing of the contemporary phenomenon of Central American migrations to the U.S. through Mexico,” he says. Pelaez-Diaz says theologian and philosopher Ignacio Ellacuria used the term “crucified people” to analyze and protest the 1980s violence inflicted upon Salvadoran and Central American people in the “context of civil wars, but also by U.S. interventions in the region through financial assistance, military training, and political backing of the repressive local governments.” He says this violence is the root cause of the migratory waves from Central America to the U.S.

Pelaez-Diaz says his research can contribute to a change in the public perception of the immigration phenomenon in the U.S. and internationally where anti-immigrant sentiment is growing. He says that one aspect of his research includes “bringing to light these causes, and push factors that lead migrants to leave their countries to undertake a journey to another country.” “Such causes and factors oftentimes involve some degree of responsibility on the part of the receiving countries toward the sending countries,” he says, and include two-way interactions including policies, political or military interventions, and free-trade agreements.

Law enforcement and border security are far from being the only solutions to irregular migration, he says. It’s important to understand the root causes, he says, and acknowledge that migration is not going to recede if those causes are not addressed, and deterrence strategies aren’t the answer.

“As long as countries that receive immigrants continue provoking great disruptions in the sending countries, this trend will continue,” he says. “So, the real solution to the problem of irregular migration lays on the willingness to change some of the macro dynamics between countries.”

In addition to its fellowships for dissertation stage doctoral students, FTE provides professional development opportunities for PhD and ThD students in the first two years of their studies. FTE developed these doctoral initiatives to help accelerate the completion of doctoral degrees among students of color and to foster diversity across the academy in North America. Since 1999, FTE has awarded more than 550 fellowships to students of color and has maintained a 97 percent retention rate among its doctoral fellows.

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Pastor at Franklin Lakes United Methodist Church, New Jersey

Alison VanBuskirk, Class of 2015

“My call as a pastor centers on shaping a community where people can connect and be real with each other and God.”