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Providing trauma counselling and trauma counselling training for South Sudanese refugees
“The first challenge we face here as pastors is how to counsel the traumatised people while we are also traumatised, so we need special training as leaders on counselling.”
While the world’s media attention is focused primarily on the wars in Syria and Iraq, other parts of the world are locked in conflict as well. One of these conflicts is in South Sudan. The civil war started in December 2013 after a fallout between President Salva Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar, which caused Machar to resign and lead rebel forces against Kiir’s government. A peace agreement was achieved in early 2016, but the conflict erupted again in July that year.
According to the United Nations, there are currently more than 1.8 million South Sudanese refugees, and more than 890,000 of them are living in Uganda. Most of these refugees live in camps in the north of the country, close to the South Sudan border. The director of INcontext’s East Africa office visited some of these camps to see for himself what the situation is like – below are some extracts from his report:
“After my visit to refugee camps in Northern Uganda and interaction with the victims of the South Sudanese conflict I discovered that what I knew about the conflict through the media was only a small fraction of the real situation. As I walked into the camps to see the lives of refugees, I got the actual meaning of what it means to be a refugee, especially in African countries.
From the stories I heard from South Sudanese refugees regarding the killings and inhumanities happening in their country, I came to understand that you may not know the value of peace unless you lose it. Many of the refugees I interviewed said they witnessed their relatives being slaughtered in front of them. Some of them lived in forests for weeks, eating grass and roots as they hid from soldiers.
One of the refugees shared the following: “It is very difficult to be a refugee, because you start everything at zero. In South Sudan, we had our own farms [and grew plentiful food], so we were able to decide what to eat. But here we are given only 12kgs of maize and beans per person per month and one cup of cooking oil. There is no sugar, no salt, no soap. We normally sell part of those 12kgs of maize to at least get some money to buy necessities.”
I met a single mother whose children had cried for so long that their voices were almost gone. She told us that the children were crying because they needed food and she had too little to sustain them until the next distribution, so she had decided to only feed her children at night so that they could sleep.
I attended the Sunday service in one of the fellowships and heard the sermon from a refugee pastor. He encouraged the people, saying: “God has brought us to this country for a purpose that we might stay alive, multiply and become a blessing to this country and our country as we return. We will not die here – instead, we will return to our country with energy, strength and new strategies to re-establish the Kingdom of God in South Sudan.”
When I asked the pastor about the challenges they are facing and the prayer needs, he said: “The first challenge we face here as pastors is not knowing how to counsel the traumatised people while we are also traumatised, so we need special training as leaders on counselling.”
In response to this request, INcontext is launching Project Restoration to provide trauma counselling and trauma counselling training to South Sudanese refugees. 30 pastors from various refugee camps have been invited to attend a 5-day training course at a centralised point close to the refugee camps. First, they will receive counselling for their own trauma, and thereafter, they will be trained to do trauma counselling with their congregation members.
There are various expenses that need to be covered in order to see this happening (such as travel costs, accommodation and meals) and it will not be possible without the support of friends, partners and fellow believers. We therefore invite you to take hands with us and with the refugees from South Sudan, who need to know that all is not lost and that there are believers across the world who know about their needs and care for them.
Any contribution will be much appreciated and will ensure that this trauma counselling project is realised. To make a donation, please use the INcontext bank details below.
To make a donation from the US, please click here and donate via the website.
As reference, please use Rest + your initials and surname.
Should you have any further questions regarding this project, please contact Gustav Krös