Introduction to Returning veterans curriculum

Monday, June 1, 2015

These lessons are designed to help congregations think both theologically and practically about healing from the trauma of war, and learning the meaning of Jesus’ way of peace. The lessons assume that peace churches and military veterans could benefit greatly by walking this path together. For some churches, this kind of shared dialogue across what is often experienced as a social barrier is new territory that may feel strange, even frightening. For other churches, this has already been a challenging and deeply rewarding journey. 

We live in an era of seemingly endless war. Since the Gulf War in 1991, the United States has conducted military actions in many places around the globe, including Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and now Syria. As of 2012, there were an estimated 21 million military veterans in the United States, of which 2.5 million were from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While many of us continue our lives as normal midst these wars, this is not the case with veterans, their families, and the many who must live with the trauma of bombs and terrorist attacks in their own countries. 

Indeed, many veterans among us still carry the emotional trauma and moral pain of war within. Their pain is a living reminder of our shared failure to prevent war and create a culture of peace. And while many members of peace churches have responded with compassion to the victims and survivors of war overseas, few have reached out to military veterans here at home.

This curriculum is an opportunity to explore these concerns in the context of our faith. What biblical resources can help shape our response to war and the trauma it visits on soldiers and civilians alike? What can veterans and peace churches learn from one another?  

We have created six lessons as a way to begin this journey, or to continue a journey already begun. Please find the Teacher’s Notes at the end of each lesson.There are opening exercises and additional resources/lesson extenders for each lesson. You will know what kind of activities and resources will work best for your class or small group. If you decide to use all the materials in addition to the lesson text and discussion questions, you will likely have enough material to spend two Sundays on each lesson. 

The lessons on trauma and trauma healing (Lessons 3 and 4) may feel heavy, and may in fact trigger intense responses, particularly from participants who have been traumatized in the past. Alert your pastor or an experienced counselor in advance, so that they can be prepared to be available and respond. 

Discussions that move us at a deep level can be both healing and frightening. Create a caring and respectful atmosphere in the class. Help the participants to be fully attentive and respectful of one another’s stories and reflections. Sometimes a circle process[1] can be helpful to encourage deeper listening or a more reflective time if that is needed. 

If there are veterans in the class, let them know that you welcome hearing whatever they feel comfortable sharing from their experience, but that they shouldn’t feel obligated to speak for all veterans or to respond to all your questions about war and the experience of re-entry.

We would love to hear about your experience with this curriculum. After your class or group has completed your study, please complete the brief online survey form​. This will help us as we plan future trainings or make revisions to this curriculum.

Sincerely,

Jason Boone, Peace and Justice Support Network (Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Mission Network)

Titus Peachey, Coordinator for Peace Education, Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

Evan Knappenberger, Iraq War Veteran and Student at Eastern Mennonite University

 

[1] See The Little Book of Circle Processes: A New/Old Approach to Peacemaking, by Kay Pranis, Good Books, Intercourse, PA, 2005. See also: About the Circle Process: http://www.livingjusticepress.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={51F9C610-C097-446A-8C60-05E8B4599FE7}

 

 

 

 

https://www.pjsn.org/resources/the-military/returning-veterans/Introduction-to-Returning-veterans-curriculum

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