Who can heal war’s spiritual wounds?
AMBS speaker urges getting to know veteransBy Mary E. Klassen Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary
ELKHART, Ind. — A psychotherapist who specializes in trauma healing called Mennonites to heal the spiritual wounds of war when she served as Peace and Justice Guest at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary Feb. 28-March 1.
Carolyn Holderread Heggen challenged listeners to bring healing to veterans and their families.
Because Mennonites have traditionally been opposed to war, they have a credibility that helps veterans feel safe in dealing with their battle experiences, Heggen said.
She noted there is growing recognition of the damage war does to combatants. Medical professions are now saying what Mennonites have known for a long time: “You can’t kill another human being without damaging the person you ask to do that,” she said.
“Soldiers are also victims of our national addiction to war and to violence. We have not been honest about the price we ask of soldiers and everyone who loves them to fight our wars.”
In one session, Heggen addressed U.S. myths about war and the truth behind them. She noted three times more veterans of the Vietnam War have taken their own lives than were killed in combat.
“We don’t cross paths with many veterans,” Heggen admitted about most Mennonites. “We need to figure out ways to get to know veterans. Then the first thing we have to do is to be more honest about our own brokenness. That transparency can help vets to feel this is a group on a journey.”
In her concluding presentation, Heggen said, “I have this strong conviction — and it’s a growing conviction — that we as Mennonites have something very, very significant to be saying about the spiritual wounds of war. I think God is wanting to do something exciting through us.”
Heggen clarified that she is not talking about healing veterans so they can go back into combat. Instead, she is urging the church to build “spaces of love, compassion and grace where we can listen to stories of vets and weep with them and say, ‘Yes, what you did was terrible. It was in profound and clear violation of God’s intentions for humanity.’ And the rest of the story is that there is a way out, and we will commit ourselves to walk with you on that journey out.”
Heggen reminded listeners that in an earlier war, Mennonites serving in mental hospitals came home with a new vision for a new area of need and were leaders in transforming how people with mental illness were treated.
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