Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Unique Open Doors Seminars Training Church Leaders To Better Counsel Traumatized Arabic Refugees

SANTA ANA, Calif.-Many members of Christian Iraqi families in cities like Baghdad and Mosul have faced traumatic experiences, such as the lost of a loved one or a kidnapping.These experiences are often the main reason families leave their city and flee to northern Iraq, Syria or Jordan. Although they flee, the trauma often doesn’t disappear.Many psychologists and psychiatrists say that trauma does not automatically go away in time; rather trauma victims need careful handling through talking about their frustrations and feelings. But in the Arab culture, it is not common to talk about your feelings. Rather it is a culture of honor and pride; the kind of culture where one does not shame his or her family by talking about their deepest emotions. This causes a dilemma for people who want to help. On one hand, the refugees are in great need of trauma counseling. However, they are not used to counseling as a form of treatment.Most of the refugees who went to Arab churches in northern Iraq, Syria and Jordan were only able to receive minimal counseling from the leaders of these different churches. Though these leaders have a lot of experience, they are not trained in trauma counseling. They need extra training and support. As a result, Open Doors has set up – in cooperation with local Christian leaders – an unique training program with foreign and Arab trainers to give the churches and Christian leaders the tools to handle the traumatic experiences that the refugees have faced.
Difficult To Forgive
Forgiveness is an important word in the Bible and the concept of that word is one of the key elements of Christian theology. However, the emphasis on forgiveness in the Bible is almost opposite to the culture of the Middle East. There it is often more talk about revenge rather than forgiveness. Some Arab Christians have problems with the concept of forgiveness after so many years of oppression by other religions. Biblical truth is taught from the pulpit, but “forgiving your enemy” is often not part of that teaching. Though Arab Christians know that the Bible instructs us to forgive, it is difficult to forgive a person who has hurt or killed one of their family members. “There is nothing against anger and frustration, but you have to channel those emotions in a right way, otherwise it is possible that you will commit a sin, maybe a crime, and that is not God’s way. So a person experiencing trauma needs to learn how to deal with that anger and feelings of revenge. Therefore we have organized these sessions,” one of the trainers said.
‘Big Step Forward’
Counseling Iraqi refugees with trauma is a long process and can take years, depending on the person. Open Doors has started the first sessions in trauma counseling and hopefully many will follow. “It is unique what we are doing here. Challenging Arabs in areas of forgiveness, revenge, shame and honor is new in this world, but it is a blessing to be able do this,” one of the Arab trainers said.The participants are overwhelmed with the material and the information: “I am in need of this material when I am dealing with Iraqis suffering with trauma in my church. There are so many questions and unanswered problems, but we have made a big step forward now.”

As in the days of Noah....

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