The Lhotsampa in Australia: Their spirituality for coping and resilience

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Abstract

The Lhotsampa are one of the three main ethnic groups that make up the population of Bhutan, a nation of immigrants. Despite having been granted full citizenship following the promulgation of the Citizenship Act of 1958, a period of instability for the Lhotsampa ensued with the rise of power and status of the Lhotsampa coupled with the ascension to the throne of the fourth monarch, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck,who instituted policies ostensibly aimed at retaining 'Bhutanese'culture (Evans, R. 2010. 'The Perils of being a Borderland People: On the Lhotshampas of Bhutan'. Contemporary South Asia, Vol. 18 (1): 26).This instability, marked by oppressive policies and overt discrimination,eventually resulted in either the expulsion or the flight of over 100,000 Lhotsampa people. Following more than 20 years in refugee camps in Nepal, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR) commenced the resettlement of the Lhotsampa in 2007 in host countries throughout the world including Australia, the US, the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway and the UK (Benson, G. O., F. Sun, D. R. Hodge and D. K. Androff. 2011. 'Religious Coping and Acculturation Stress among Hindu Bhutanese: A Study of Newly-resettled Refugees in the United States'. International Social Work,Vol. 55 (4):: 539).This study examines the spiritual coping and subsequent resilience that the Lhotsampa refugees have succeeded in developing, not only at the loss of their homeland, the lack of citizenship and the adverse effects of refugee existence but also the difficult process of third country resettlement. Facing the difficulties of rebuilding lives in vastly differing Western cultures, this article examines the role(s) that spirituality plays in the development of resilience that facilitates positive outcomes,which the Lhotsampa are demonstrating. Themes of spirituality are identified and the way in which the Lhotsampa utilises their spirituality within these themes are also explored. Finally, the implications for contemporary social work practice will be considered. In particular,this article considers the strengths perspective for culturally competent,spiritually inclusive practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-78
Number of pages20
JournalSociety and Culture in South Asia
Volume2
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016

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