Sri Lanka: Psychological and pastoral aid for victims of the attacks

ACN supports Church trauma programmes

by Maria Lozano.

The international pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is supporting the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka in its efforts to assist the victims of the terrorist attacks that took place on Easter Sunday. In April of this year, Islamist suicide bombers claimed the lives of almost 300 people and injured more than 500 in three Christian churches as well as three hotels. Thanks to a large wave of solidarity throughout the country and from the Sri Lankan diaspora living abroad, as well as immediate relief measures from parts of the government, it has been possible to quickly rebuild the two Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Colombo that had been destroyed during the attacks.

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Fr. Jude Raj with victims, St. Anthony´s Shrine. Photographer: Stephan Baier. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.

The affected families immediately received medical and material aid. Many of them have not only lost a beloved family member, but also the sole breadwinner of the family, which means that they now face financial ruin. The Archdiocese of Colombo has begun to provide long-term, post-traumatic aid for the healing process and psychosocial assistance for the survivors and their families. ACN is providing the funding for this project.

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Holy mass at the St. Sebastian's Church three months since a suicide bomber in Negombo, Sri Lanka. Photographer: Bartek Zytkowiak. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.

There are many people who experienced the attacks directly and are now severely traumatised. Some have lost all members of their household. A large number of families are still taking care of their relatives, some of whom sustained severe injuries. To provide for their needs, the Archdiocese of Colombo has set up a team of 40 certified trauma therapists. They provide psychological care for grieving, injured and other severely traumatised people. Therapy programmes specifically geared towards children, families and people living alone are also in the planning stages. These programmes will benefit more than 2,000 people.

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Cemetery in Negombo - tombs of the martyrs. Photographer: Stephan Baier
Copyright Status: Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.

A large part of the aid provided by ACN will be used to train 300 consultants and social workers – also in the area of youth services – to ensure that they can identify traumatised people and support them in a manner appropriate to their needs.

The Archdiocese of Colombo has grouped all of these measures within a programme entitled “Pain to the Cross and to the Blessed Sacrament”, as the focus is on coping with trauma and grief from a Christian perspective. The individualised care programme also includes a spiritual offer, such as a Bible-based session held under the motto, “Healing for the Wounds of the Heart”.

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Holy Mass at the St. Sebastian's Church three months since a suicide bomber in Negombo, Sri Lanka.
Photographer: Bartek Zytkowiak

Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.

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