This week I was fortunate to attend two different powerful presentations by women from different religious traditions but with very similar messages. On Monday, Christian minister Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock spoke about “Soul Repair” and the need for communities of faith to assist veterans in recovering from moral injury after war. The next evening Ellen Cassedy, noted Jewish scholar, playwright, and speech writer, shared her experiences of tracing her family tree in Lithuania and discovering the continued impact of the holocaust on both Jews and non-Jews in that country.
Both Cassedy and Nakashima Brock cautioned their audiences on the danger of glossing over, or worse yet, ignoring the impact of violence on those who experience war and other atrocities, whether as victims or as perpetrators or sometimes both. The two presenters would agree that it may take a lifetime to work through the complicated and messy wounds of violence. Post-traumatic stress syndrome is but one example of the consequences of horrible atrocities.
As people of faith, our task first involves a willingness to acknowledge that there are walking wounded among us. Some may be veterans of war, victims of anti-semitism, or others who suffer from violent abuse whether physical, mental, or emotional. Once we open our eyes to the hurting among us, we are then tasked with having open ears to listen deeply to their pain without trying to fix it, explain it, or dismiss it. With open eyes, and listening ears, we are better able to have compassionate hearts to help walk with others as they work through their own unique and sometimes lifelong journeys toward healing and wholeness.
To walk with others, to give witness to their struggles, to be willing to sit with them in times of confusion, despair, and even anguish is to participate in the powerful process of inner healing. As we prepare for the upcoming sacred season of both Jewish Passover and Christian Holy Week, may we pray for and journey beside them – those whose lives have been forever marked by violence but who look forward with hope to a time of peace.