Trauma healing: How the Bible is helping to rebuild lives shattered by war

Civil war and terrorism have devastated Syria and Iraq. Millions have fled for their lives, and neighbouring Jordan is hosting more than a million of them. But once refugees have reached safety and have food and shelter ­– often very basic – deeper needs still remain. Many are suffering trauma-related issues as a result of their experiences and need support as they come to terms with what has happened to them.

One programme, Healing the Wounds of Trauma, is a worldwide initiative designed to meet the specific needs of people who have experienced war, disease and displacement, using the Bible as a source of hope and comfort. It is now being run in 76 countries. There are nearly 4,000 group facilitators and 183 language translations of the material. In Jordan, the programme – supported by Bible Society – is helping more than 30,000 refugees.

One of its trained facilitators, Pastor Amjad (pictured above/right), has worked with hundreds of refugees in the town of Madaba and says the programme is really changing lives. It focuses particularly on children as many are so damaged by the war.

‘At first they used to draw guns, killing and negative drawings,’ he says. ‘Through prayer and trauma healing we were able to change the mindset of these children. Now we see them drawing flowers and children holding each other’s hands and things that are normal for every kind of child.’

One refugee, Saraa (pictured above/left), lives with her six children in a one-room apartment in Jordan.

‘My children had been greatly affected by the war, so I decided to bring them to Jordan so that they could see better days,’ she says.

For years, she had pretended to her young children that the explosions they heard were fireworks. There was nothing to worry about.

‘The straw that broke the camel’s back was when they bombed the house next door and I couldn’t pretend any more,’ she says.

In Jordan, she found herself ‘broken and aggressive’. Now, she says, she’s able to cope better thanks to the trauma healing course. ‘It affected me greatly, just knowing how to deal with my anger.

‘At first we used to ask God, “Why are you leaving us? Why are you putting us through this?” But I’ve learned that God will get us through this in the end. He cares for us.’

The programme is unique because it is Bible based and enables people to see their own experiences through characters and events from the Bible. It’s taught in different ways to adults and children and there are courses which don’t involve books for those who aren’t able to read.

The work is overseen by the Trauma Healing Advisory Council (THAC), made up of mental health professionals who are clear that the programme is not intended to ‘cure’ people or designed to be a replacement for medicine or professional therapy.

According to Naomi Dunn, Bible Society’s International Advocacy Support Officer: ‘Trauma healing works because it helps people find hope in their darkest moments. It’s not about burying the pain or forgetting what has happened, but about building a new identity that acknowledges the past without having to be defined by it, and then looking ahead to a better future. The Bible is vital to this as it helps people find meaning and purpose, knowing that they are loved and not alone.’

For more about Bible Society and trauma healing visit biblesociety.org.uk/prayertree