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Global perspectives on trauma healing
October 31, 2008
AKRON, Pa. – Snezana Andelic realized something was wrong when she moved home to Belgrade, Serbia, after studying abroad in the 1990s. Serbia had fought several wars while she was away, and ordinary people seemed to have changed.
Andelic says that many people were troubled by anxiety, anger or family problems, and she recognized that war had caused widespread emotional trauma. Andelic became a therapist and founded an organization, Center for Education and Psychotherapy, that Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) supports in treating people with postwar trauma.
"I talk to them and help them to understand that they are not crazy, nothing is wrong with them, but they experienced something that is totally crazy and wrong, and that's the cause of their behavior," Andelic says.
In September, Andelic traveled to Salatiga, Indonesia, as one of 40 participants in an international conference on trauma healing that was sponsored by MCC. Presenters shared about healing psychological trauma in Indonesia, India, Colombia, Rwanda and other countries.
Trauma healing is a growing area of work for MCC in war and disaster situations, according to Amy Erickson, MCC's peace program coordinator.
While MCC has long helped to meet the physical needs of people affected by wars and disasters, MCC and its partner organizations are increasingly focusing on psychological and social needs as well. After the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, for example, MCC workers taught trauma healing techniques to people in affected communities in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka.
"I think it's complementary to other types of relief work that we do," Erickson says.
Andelic says that the trauma healing conference gave her useful insights from other cultures. Participants from Indonesia and elsewhere emphasized helping people with psychological trauma through communitywide activities.
Andelic notes that several Colombian participants spoke about the value of involving churches in helping people traumatized by violence. Andelic says she hopes to incorporate trauma healing into the ministry of her Protestant congregation in Serbia.
"The people trust the church," Andelic says. "They trust church more than they trust therapy, and so that's a good place to start."
Podcast interviews with Andelic and seven other international trauma healers are available at mcc.org/healingtrauma/audio.