We explored the impact of Bible-based trauma healing in our Summer 2018 issue of Words for Life. Here we hear about the impact trauma healing course is having in the turmoil of the Middle East.
My name is Rajiya. It means ’hope’. I live in the Middle East, and I am a Christian, a Chaldean Christian. My people have been living in this region for many, many generations, and we are known to some as Assyrian Christians. Our Church holds to a long, venerable tradition.
In the course of the last two years I lost hope. The militant Islamic group known as (also known as Islamic State or ISIS) has been wreaking havoc across our land. They have been kidnapping my people, driving us from our villages and killing us. Many of my people have fled to Turkey and then by boat to Europe, risking their lives and their livelihoods to escape the terror.
My body was intact, but internally I was torn apart
I stayed in my home country, and ended up in a major city, along with thousands of others who had been uprooted from their homes. My body was still intact, but internally I was torn apart. My spirit wept, but I could not find the tears. It was then that I made contact with the Assyrian Aid Society, and they put me in touch with a lady called Mirah who was running a trauma healing group. The purpose of this group was to help me and people like me, to restore our hope, and also to help us help others, to restore their hope. There were 44 of us in the group, about half women and half men, about half local Chaldean Christians and about half foreigners. I was surprised to see the foreigners there, but they too had suffered trauma from living in my country while trying to help my people.
There were many other surprises. First, Mirah and the other leaders used the Bible as their main textbook. We Chaldeans have always been Christians, but we generally don’t read the Bible. Mirah took the Bible seriously. Now, after this healing group, I do too. A second surprise is that Mirah and the others did not give lectures. We were all divided into small groups and we had to talk to one another. I found this very difficult at first, especially given the fact that there were men in the same group, men who were my elders. We were all expected to contribute to the discussion, so I could not simply sit there as would normally be expected of a younger woman. It was easier when we women were put together in one group – but I’ll come to that later.
If God loves us why do we suffer?
The healing group combined psychology with Scripture. On the first day we looked at the question, ‘If God loves us why do we suffer?’ We were each given a copy of the Bible in Arabic, and Mirah helped us find certain stories in the Bible to help us answer this question. For example, we looked at Jesus and how he had compassion on the crowds of people. We then looked at how the ‘wounds of our hearts’ can be healed. Again we looked at Jesus and also at some of the Psalms. My heart had been wounded, and as we looked at these passages from the Bible and discussed them with one another, I began to feel more comfortable.
In another of the sessions we took our pains to the cross of Jesus. We reflected and prayed. We each thought about the pains and problems we were carrying and we wrote some of them down on pieces of paper. I do not know what the others wrote, and they do not know what I wrote because when we were ready we tore up the pieces of paper, the pieces of paper on which we’d written down our problems and pains, put them in a box, and that was the last we saw of them. This was a moving and significant experience for me, and I told Mirah that
The other activity that stands out to me is when we Arabic-speaking women were in a group together. There were about 10 of us. The Arabic-speaking men formed another group, and then the English-speaking women and the English-speaking men. I do not know what the other groups talked about, but what we talked about was rape and domestic violence. Yes, some of us had suffered both. Our conversation was quite animated, and I engaged fully in the discussion. Mirah had given us some verses from the Bible, mainly from the Psalms. As a result of our discussion we wrote a good long list of things that we, as Chaldean women, wanted to share with the men in our lives.
At the end of the week Mirah gave each of us a certificate so that we could hold healing groups ourselves and train others to do so to. She has asked each of us to lead two groups in the next eight months. As I interacted with other people in the city, uprooted like me and dumped here, I could see in them the pain and the scars that I had had before the healing group. I am gathering a group of women together, including some Muslims, and we will have a healing group, talking together and sharing the Bible together, and I pray that they will find healing too.
Bringing healing to others
I realise I am once again becoming Rajiya, my hope is returning.
Note: Rajiya is a composite of a number of women who attended the trauma healing workshop.