MONROVIA, LIBERIA - The Church World Service announced that it is teaming up with Liberian interfaith leaders to provide its first weeklong Seminar in Trauma Awareness and Recovery in Liberia, beginning this March 22.
The ‘STAR’ seminars, which are aimed at helping avert future violence by “forging trauma counseling into a conflict prevention tool for the region,” began in the U.S. following the 9-11 attacks, under the auspices of the CWS and the Conflict Transformation Program of Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisburg, Virginia.
This time, the STAR program will be co-hosted by the Liberian Council of Churches, and will attract men and women from Christian and Muslim organizations, NGOs, colleges and civil society. Currently, 48 participants are enrolled in the training program; all 15 counties in Liberia as well as three from neighboring Guinea are represented.
The STAR seminar, which is slated for the Pastoral Retreat Center in Monrovia, will be co-led by Barry Hart, EMU academic faculty and CWS' Ivan DeKam and facilitated by John Chatting of the Nairobi Peace Institute and Violette Nyirarakundu. Several pastors are expected to attend as well.
"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," said a Liberian church leader.
"We're gratified and honored to be able to share this learning environment in Liberia," said Ivan DeKam of CWS. "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 DeKam, the STAR seminars train church and community leaders to teach local congregants and communities on how to heal from trauma. Additionally, the seminars teach the participants about justice, security and peace-building issues to promote restorative justice rather than mere retribution.
"You can't deal with trauma without dealing with justice, so we are not training people to treat trauma simply as 'critical incidence,’” said DeKam. “We are talking about healing trauma as a process 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."
Church World Service is a humanitarian agency and cooperative ministry of 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican denominations, providing sustainable self-help and development, disaster relief and refugee assistance in partnership worldwide.