Blessed Are The Peacemakers
'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.' Matthew 5v9
Back in September I wrote about the estimated 1.5 million refugees currently living in Lebanon. Indeed, this Christmas it remains the largest population of refugees on the planet.
450,000 of these people were displaced during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war - 3 generations, homeless for over 70 years. The others are more recently arrived from neighbouring Syria - refugees of the latest, devastating conflict.
There’s a camp in Northern Lebanon called Nahr al-Bared. It’s home to some 30,000 people. At the heart of the camp is a trauma centre run by an organisation called Association Najdeh. They’re an organisation that Christian Aid is proud to support. The work they do is challenging and necessary. They're incredible!
It’s run by a small band of dedicated people wholly committed to the task of putting people back together. Not a medical centre you understand, but a mental health support centre. The staff there run counselling sessions, psychotherapy sessions, literacy classes and utilise art therapy to treat people affected by war. It’s main aim is to help Palestinian children catch-up on their education, process their trauma and work towards a peaceful future.
Diana Abbas is one such member of the team. She works closely with children and teenagers suffering from trauma, providing counselling and therapy to help rebuild their mental health.
She is a peacemaker.
“I have been working with children for more than 15 years.” She says. “I love my work a lot. I love working with the kids at the centre. I do emotional and intelligence tests, drawing therapy and storytelling therapy as a first step in diagnosis. There is trauma everywhere, not only because of the war, but for many other reasons. For instance, a lot of fights happen here in the camp. A lot of children with trauma come here to the centre. Their symptoms include sleeping disorders, speech impediments, loss of concentration, loss of appetite, lethargy, depression, grief and aggression. We can always try our best to provide them a place where they can find peace – working with them, their parents and their whole environment.”
Diana is the only psychologist in the centre and deals with a ludicrous number of cases.
“I deal with 25 cases which from 2017 and I’m dealing with 44 new cases in 2018. They are all children. There is a need for more psychologists – that’s because I don’t just handle cases here in the centre – cases are also referred to me from outside, from other organisations. If we cannot have another psychologist, then at least the days that I come to the centre should be increased. We need a playground for children, so that they can play in a safe way: we could rent a playground or make the roof of the centre safe for children to play. We also need materials and more games that are educational. We have many, but there are always many more that we could use.”
For Christian Aid’s Christmas Appeal this year we’re supporting, among others, the centre run by Association Najdeh and aiming to resource the work Diana and her colleagues do.
In the beatitudes Jesus talks about the peacemakers. I can think of no one more fitting of the label than Diana and her colleagues. They have chosen to work in a conflict zone which has raged for decades, doing what they can to put back together the innocent victims of a war which many were born into. No one asked for this. And yet here we are.
This Christmas I stand with Diana. We are, after all, children of God.