Believers deal with invisible scars of war in Nigeria

By September 8, 2014
(Photo courtesy Open Doors)

(Photo courtesy Open Doors)

Nigeria (WRN/MNN) — In an effort to expand the territory they control, Boko Haram militants engaged Nigerian security forces this week.

Fierce fighting near the northeastern town of Bama displaced more than 26,000 people. The Boko Haram is a Sunni jihadist movement whose name means “Western education is forbidden.” Inspired by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, military experts say Boko Haram has shifted their focus from creating mayhem to taking ground and holding it.

Concern that an Iraq-like advance could happen next in Nigeria, the government in Maiduguri extended an overnight curfew there. Last week, leader Abubaker Shekau announced a self-declared caliphate.

13 years of violence plus the looming threat of eradication has traumatized individuals and families and left entire communities without a sense of security. Wayne DeJong with World Renew explains, “People are essentially experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They live in fear for their lives. They have lost loved ones who have been killed or who have been kidnapped. They just have a lot of questions.”

It soon became clear that a response was needed to help break the cycle of violence and retribution, which would require a shift in worldview. DeJong says, “We chose to work with our partner, Beacon of Hope Initiative, to implement the trauma healing project and really focus on the psychological and spiritual aspects of the trauma that they’ve experienced.”  DeJong adds that because it’s a biblically-based program, the Gospel story plays a role for both Christians and non-Christians. “They’re certainly open to learning more, but non-Christians as well seem to be very open to learning about the Christian faith.”

Through World Renew support, Beacon of Hope is now providing trauma-healing programs to those in need. DeJong goes on to detail the scope of what they address. “The trauma healing project that we’re supporting is helping these beneficiaries to understand why they suffer in spite of God’s love, how the wounds of the human hearts can be healed, how to help people who are hurting, how to care for the caregiver, and just how to live with pain in the midst of conflict.”

Some of the topics for these group discussions include:

  1. Why we suffer in spite of God’s love
  2. How the wounds of human hearts can be healed
  3. What happens when someone is grieving
  4. How to help those who have experienced bad things
  5. How to help someone who has experienced sexual violence
  6. How to minister in the midst of HIV and AIDS, Ebola, STIs, etc.
  7. How to care for the caregiver
  8. How to take pains to the Cross
  9. How we can forgive others
  10. How to live as God-fearing people in the midst of conflict
  11. How to build personal or collective resilience
(Photo courtesy World Renew)

(Photo courtesy World Renew)

World Renew (and Beacon of Hope) decided a grassroots approach would be most effective. “What we’re doing is training 60 group leaders in trauma healing so that they can conduct workshops across eight northern states of Nigeria, and working with 10 large churches in northern Nigeria.”

Once trained, these leaders will facilitate group discussions with men, women, and children who have been traumatized by the on-going violence in their country. The goal is to help people talk openly about the experiences they have had and to provide them with some coping mechanisms for dealing with their trauma. Once out in the open, healing can begin. “There is certainly an aspect of peace-building in this program, helping people and communities to learn how to get along with each other. Many communities are made up of both Muslims and Christians and there has been tension between them for many decades.”

Please join World Renew in praying for peace in Nigeria and the West Africa region. “Pray for the partner, the Beacon of Hope initiative, and the trainers that are being trained in this trauma healing program that they can reach as many people as possible.”

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