Course offers traumatised Christian migrant help


Western Europe


Help for migrants who arrived in the overflowing refugee locations in the Netherlands. Photo ANP, Owen O'Brien

Christian migrants who struggle with trauma can not always find a connection with mainstream counselling services. The Freedom Focus course was developed especially for them, where "theological and psychological insights both have a place".

The first coursebook, aimed at migrant women, will be presented at a mini-symposium in the Dutch city of Gouda on Tuesday. This reports the Dutch Christian daily Reformatorisch Dagblad. It is an initiative of the international church In Christ United (ICU) in Gouda and the Faith Integration Foundation.

ICU pastors have regular pastoral contact with church members struggling with unprocessed traumas, says Rev Esther van Schie, affiliated with ICU and director of the Faith Integration Foundation. "Sometimes these surfaced when men had fallen into addiction. This involved underlying problems. Think of what they experienced during a war in their country, during their flight or in the Netherlands."

ICU pastors wondered what they could do for traumatised refugees and migrants. "We noticed that they often find it difficult to connect with mainstream counselling services due to language and cultural differences. They also sometimes don't feel heard there as Christians. One woman said: I wanted to tell my psychologist how Jesus helped me, but she didn't understand."

Rev Van Schie and Rev Marien Kollenstaart, affiliated with ICU, developed the Freedom Focus course. Sixteen lessons cover various topics, "bringing together insights from the Bible and psychology. In doing so, we had several psychologists read along," says Rev Van Schie.


One of the themes is "loss". "Many participants have suffered losses. Think of family members or friends killed in the war, but also the loss of a sense of security or -once in the Netherlands- the loss of status."

Recently, two pilot groups, one for men and one for women, were running in Gouda. Participants came from Syria, Iraq, the Philippines, China, Myanmar and Afghanistan. "In the group's safety, beautiful conversations emerged, where people shared their experiences and could bring in faith. There was also space to conclude with prayer."

Faith Integration Foundation aims to make the material more widely available by publishing a course book. The initiators deliberately chose a separate edition for men and women. Rev Van Schie points out that, to some extent, women have different themes than men or that the same themes require a different approach. "In the lives of several women, for example, sexual abuse or domestic violence turned out to have left deep marks. We pay separate attention to these, addressing topics such as self-image and forgiveness, among others."



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