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Melanesian Messenger Online distributed by the
Church of the Province of Melanesia
The workshop participants. At the front are objects representing trauma.
Photo No. : P070430-3
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Members of religious orders discussing trauma issues during the workshop
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Members of the Melanesian Brotherhood sharing their personal traumatic experiences of the past ethnic tension
Photo No. : P070430-5
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Trauma experience vital for conflict resolution and transformation work
April 30, 2007

[Melanesian Messenger - Melanesia] Members of the four Religious Orders of the Church of Melanesia in Solomon Islands have been told that no matter how victimized they may feel by the traumatic events of the past ethnic tension, they can be healed and continue to be active participants in peace-building.

This was the message drawn from the first ever Community-based Trauma and Healing workshop for members of the Anglican Religious Orders. Despite their active involvement to try to restore peace during the height of the tension on Guadalcanal from 1998 to 2003, Brothers and Sisters were drawn into the horrendous events of torture, beheading and inhumane killings, which still haunted them years later.

The workshop was facilitated by Koila Costello-Olsson of the World Council of Churches Pacific Office based in Suva Fiji. She said it was a very rich, touching and emotional workshop, which raised the issues and awareness about trauma, healing, conflict and conflict resolution processes, and self-care.

'The primary focus is healing, which involves the processes of story telling by drawing the individual painful experiences about what is haunting them, stories about atrocities, depression and despair that still remain very much part of their life,' she said.

Costello-Olsson said she was very impressed with the expertise and real experiences shared by all participants who were survivors of the recent upheaval and other traumas that they had gone through personally.

'Through sharing their experiences and reaffirming what they know deep in their hearts, they are now better equipped to begin their own processes or to continue their processes of trauma healing.

'It's been an extremely wonderful, exciting and painful journey for a lot of us, and I could confidently say that a lot of the participants felt extremely satisfied,' she said.

The workshop not only gave Brothers and Sisters the confidence to be able to share what they knew in their respective communities but it also opened their minds to possibilities of other needs of the community that needed to be met.

A follow-up workshop is being planned for September this year, when a community-based manual on trauma healing is expected to be compiled as part of the Church of Melanesia's mission in addressing issues of conflict resolution and transformation.

The lead trainer of the workshop was Professor Al Fuertes from the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution of George Mason University in USA, who came to share with the participants his experiences of working in conflict zones throughout the world.

The workshop was hosted jointly by the Melanesian Brotherhood at Tabalia on west Guadalcanal and Sisters of the Church at TNK on north Guadalcanal.

Twenty members of the religious groups participated in the workshop, which ran for two weeks in April 2007.