“Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
A Course to Help Young Religious Cope with Trauma in a Conflict Region
For many years, Cameroon, a country in Central-West Africa with 24 million inhabitants, was regarded as relatively stable when compared its crisis-racked neighbors. Then, in 2016, protest marches in the English-speaking region began against a perceived marginalization in this predominantly French-speaking country. These protests escalated into a major and ongoing armed conflict between the central government and the separatists in the Anglophone provinces. As a result, thousands of people have been killed, and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee. There have also been abductions of individual Church personnel and teachers, including priests.
The Sisters of Saint Anne are a congregation whose formation house in the city of Bamenda is just one mile from the area where the fighting is raging. Founded in Italy in the nineteenth century, the Sisters are dedicated to educating and supporting poor and disadvantaged children and young people. Now, there is “a prevailing atmosphere of fear,” says Sister Pamela Bongben, who runs the formation house.
There are three postulants, five novices and 37 young Sisters with temporary vows who are currently undergoing training in the formation house. These young Sisters and novices have been traumatized by the violence they have witnessed at first hand and by the permanent climate of fear. The congregation is therefore proposing to offer them a two-week workshop in which they will learn how to deal with these experiences and cope with the situation without coming to any great harm as a result. The objective is to inspire new confidence in them and help them to overcome the lingering sense of fear.
The hope is that these young women will not only personally benefit from this support but will also learn how to help and support other people who have faced similar traumatic experiences. In a region like this, where most people have had to confront violence, fear and death, this is an important part of their pastoral work. Suffering from unresolved trauma could also lead some of the young Sisters to suffer an emotional crisis and abandon their vocation.
Preparing for and funding the courses is a challenge. Course materials have to be purchased, and competent lecturers must be paid for their time and travel expenses. The congregation, which helps the poor and is itself poor, cannot afford the cost and has asked for our support.
We are proposing to help for this important two-week workshop with a contribution of $11,300.
Will you give to help these young religious cope with trauma as they continue to prepare to serve others in this troubled region of Cameroon?
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