By Caroline Hope Griffith
Research Analyst, Duke Global Health Institute
Today was the first meeting of our seminar, Community Health, Trauma and Reconciliation. The goal of the seminar is to understand the relationship between trauma – which can manifest itself in afflictions of the body (e.g., HIV/AIDS), the mind (e.g., post-traumatic stress) and the spirit – the practices of reconciliation, and the health of communities in the face of this trauma.
Participants of our group come from many backgrounds and include a doctor caring for HIV patients in Uganda, a palliative care chaplain in Tanzania, a medically trained doctor helping children in the slums of South Sudan, a Bishop in Rwanda training Congolese refugees in trauma counseling, and an advocate helping women who are victims of sexual abuse in Kenya.
Today, we centered our discussion around 2 questions:
What kind of healthy community would you like to belong to?
We all agreed that we would like to belong to a community that is holistically healthy. The community would not only have access to basic health services and work to reduce illness, but it also would have security, good schools, and respect for the environment. Community members would be peaceful, caring, accepting, trusting, loving and faithful and embody justice, peace, and equal opportunity.
Can a healthy community help to prevent conflict?
A healthy community can certainly help to prevent conflict. The opportunities and the future promise offered by such a community invite the younger generation to invest in their futures and resist conflict. However, without peace it is difficult to establish all of the components of a healthy community. One participant shared his experience working for the United Nations. He said that when his organization came into a conflict zone and asked the people what they needed most, the people said peace. Not food or shelter or schools, but they first asked for peace. So, if the community is in conflict, then efforts to build good schools, health centers, and establish trust and security – all important parts of a healthy community – will be very difficult.
So where should we start to help a community become healthy again? For me, it’s clear that a comprehensive response is necessary – providing food, clothing, and health care must be accompanied by peace-building, and reconciliation needs to be integrated with efforts to build housing, health care, and education.
See my first post from the conference: