he purpose of this symposium is to explore how the wisdom tradition, dating from early Christian spirituality, might facilitate the development of innovative and creative treatment options to heal the wounds of the survivors of trauma experienced in combat or in other violent situations. As with physical wounds, we know that it is the complications and contamination of mental wounds that most often kill victims of trauma, or blight their lives. The increase in suicide and crime among veterans of recent military conflicts is well documented, and in the face of this evidence, the idea that war can warp the soul has been gaining traction among experts in behavioral healthcare. But phenomena such as “moral injury” or “wounds of conscience” are not only to be found in the experiences of combat veterans. They also seem to be present in the experiences of other people who have been exposed to a wide range of adversity, such as domestic violence, sexual assault, long-term living in refugee camps, natural disasters, and even professional caregiving in extreme situations, to name but a few. It appears that perpetrating, witnessing, or suffering great violence can shatter core beliefs about humanity and sometimes about God.
Among the questions to be considered in the context of this interdisciplinary gathering is one asked by Sir John Templeton:
“What can we do to convert a hurtful experience into an opportunity to practice love?”
Other questions include:
How best can the wounds of those who have sustained moral injury be healed? In what specific ways might the guidance of Christian spiritual traditions be helpful in the healing process for survivors of trauma?
Is forgiveness a key to healing?
What is the role of peers and/or the community in recovery?
How might the efficacy of interventions be best understood and conceptualized and what constitutes evidence of positive change?
The ten scholars and scientists meeting in Colchester to ponder these questions come together in the oldest recorded Roman town in Britain. Wivenhoe House, owned by the University of Essex and located on the eastern edge of Colchester, is visible in the background of Wivenhoe Park, Essex, the early landscape painting by John Constable, which is owned by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.