Thursday, April 26, 2007


Christian & Non Christian
A couple of weeks ago I attended a 5 day intensive seminar, Recovering From Trauma. Our facilitators/instructors worked through a wide range of material: from restorative justice to overcoming nervous stress. The seminar included both Christians and non Christians. I enjoyed comparing differences and examining points of agreement with folk who did not share my belief system. Networking with other groups committed to issues relating to mental health is not outside the church's call to be salt and light in the world.

The non Christian participants were social workers well versed in the areas of mediation and communal development.

I particularly liked the session on overcoming the cycle of victimhood and persistent conflict. How do victims find their voice, forgive and challenge the oppressor? Is it really possible to break the cycle of conflict which freezes people into a victim-oppressor mould? Most of us found answers in our own stories of overcoming family conflicts and discrimination. My sharing centred mostly on how a personal faith in Christ is helping me to overcome discrimination and prejudices. The discussion was lively.

Restorative justice (RJ) as opposed to retributive justice was also well received by participants. One of the components of RJ is to view wrongdoing not only as a crime against the state but more importantly as an offence against persons. Sentencing takes into account the offender’s commitment to a process of restoration. Whenever possible, victims and the criminal meet under the guidance of a facilitator with the aim of finding closure not only for the victim but also for the offender. This fosters a greater sense of personal accountability before the needs of the community. Models of this approach can be found in South Africa, Finland and other European countries.

Mental Health
One of the highlights was the relationship between physical and mental health. The body, a healing agent, improves mental health. We were taught simple exercises. And to prove the point we had masseurs working on our backs and forehead, while we were seated, during some of the lectures!

Our trainers, hailing from the Mennonite tradition, were all women in their late 20’s. I found this a little strange because I normally encourage women to share their perspective on issues at meetings or seminars. In this seminar however we had women leading the sessions and I missed a male perspective! Life is full of quaint ironies.

Above on your right is a photo of the participants at the seminar. On the extreme left is Rev Federico Bascuñan, the bespectacled male. He's the pastor of the anglican church, Light Of The World. His arms are around his wife Rosie the lady in the pink blouse.

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