CWS Launches Conflict Prevention Initiative for Liberian Communities

( [email protected] ) Mar 23, 2004 03:06 PM EST

MONROVIA, LIBERIA - Church World Service, a global humanitarian agency, is partnering with Liberian interfaith leaders to help Liberia recovering from recent devastation hit on the land and to prevent future violence by holding trauma counseling training seminars this week March 22 – March 30.

The seminars known as Trauma Awareness and Recovery is conducted by CWS in Liberia for the first time and will take place at the Pastoral Retreat Center in Monrovia, hosted by the Liberian Council of Churches (LCC) with participants from interfaith, civil society and government sectors from across the country.

Many religious leaders involved in this event are hoping the seminars will open up new doors for Liberians who are earnestly calling for peace and justice. STAR training will host about 50 participants from Liberian Christian and Muslim organizations, non-governmental organizations, colleges, civil society, and churches.

A Liberian church leader commented, "Everybody in Liberia is traumatized and without the healing process within an individual, there will be no reconciliation and peace in Liberia's communities and society."

"We're gratified and honored to be able to share this learning environment in Liberia," says CWS' Ivan DeKam. "We hope this will be an occasion of trauma recovery and an opportunity to build greater skills for healing the wounds that Liberians have suffered for far too long."

According to CWS, the program's curriculum focuses on healing trauma, an introduction to broad justice, security and peace-building issues, and how resolving trauma can promote restorative justice rather than retribution.

"You can't deal with trauma without dealing with justice," says DeKam. "So we are not training people to treat trauma simply as 'critical incidence.'

"We are talking about healing trauma as a process," he says, "in a way that can actually transform conflict resolution into conflict prevention."

DeKam says the STAR seminars "offer participants a safe space to give voice to and resolve their own traumas" and are intended to "train us and our colleagues here in West Africa so they can go on and provide trauma healing in a way that encourages the kind of restorative justice that permits true reconciliation and supports sustainable peace."

According to LCC General Secretary Benjamin Lartey, the seminars will have nationwide representation, with participants from 15 countries in Liberia.

The seminars began in the U.S. following Septembers 11 as a joint project of CWS and the Conflict Transformation Program of Easter Mennonite University, Harrisburg, Virginia.

CWS is known for its advocacy for the Liberian people asking for greater attention by the U.S. government, the UN and other international bodies, prior to the outbreak of last summer's termination of the former Liberian President Charles Taylor.