How to Heal?

Nicaraguan psychologist, Martha Cabrera, writes that Nicaragua is a “multiply wounded country.” Indeed, anyone over the age of 40 has experienced both man-made and natural disasters; harsh dictatorship, revolutionary and civil war, devastating earthquakes and hurricanes. The majority of the population suffers from economic poverty and recent rates of violence against women led congress to pass a law against Femicide last year. On a local level people are seeing an increase in illegal drugs, an increase in gang activity and organized crime, and a loss of the social cohesion and family values that have for so long held their communities together.

So, in the midst of all this suffering, what is the role of the church? How can the church be salt and light in a context of trauma and violence? These questions and challenges are ones that the Anabaptist Peace and Justice Commission, my (Adam’s) MCC partner organization, has been posing to local Mennonite and Brethren in Christ congregations during “Reflections for Peace” seminars over the past year. These reflection times are designed to encourage churches to respond to the Biblical call to be peace makers and work for social justice following the example and teachings of Jesus.

Two new churches have responded to this call and spent over 2o hours in training workshops in 2012 acquiring new knowledge and skills to be able to transform conflict non-violently and educate others on violence prevention. In addition to this, the Peace and Justice Commission has continued to support and offer our expertise to two churches that received training in past years and have putting their skills to use through projects directed toward marginalized members of their community.

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The Brethren in Christ Church in Reparto Shick, Managua has been working over the past 3 years with at-risk youth in their neighborhood, some of which have been involved in gang activity. The church holds monthly meetings with the youth where they talk about a variety of issues such as improving family relationships, self-esteem, a healthy view of masculinity, healthy sexual behaviors, etc. They also visit the youth’s families on a regular basis and this year began organizing soccer games to provide a healthy past time for the kids and a way to talk about important values such as teamwork and cooperation.

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The Brethren in Christ church in Villa Libertad works to keep kids in their community healthy both physically and socially by providing children lunch and a peace education lesson twice a week.

How does a “multiply wounded society” begin to heal? Obviously there are no easy answers and the process is a long a difficult one, but churches getting out of their comfort zones to show love and care to the most vulnerable members of their communities seems to be a good first step.

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