Religion Matters-South Explores Pathways to Healing
By Tech. Sgt. Lakisha A. Croley, U.S. Southern Command July 01, 2016Monsignor Fabio Suescun Mutis, Archbishop for the Colombian Military, hosted members of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Religious Affairs Team and clergy from 14 partner nations in the Americas during the 2016 Religious Affairs Symposium in Bogotá, Colombia. The mission behind the symposium was to provide partner nation military chaplains and clergy with information, the right language, and perspective on how “Religion Matters” as a factor for study and a force for good in SOUTHCOM’s area of responsibility. Participants including visiting members from the Colombian Military Command were there to develop a better understanding of this concept by building a network of religious people who will in turn care for the needs of military members and their families. Intertwined with that idealism is the additional concept that as they care for their personnel they are also seeking to make sure they are receiving care for their own needs. This was apparent with the theme of this year’s symposium, “Discovering Pathways to Healing.” Over the course of three days, the participants gained awareness of long-term strategies to heal physical and spiritual wounds of war and care for the caregiver, as well as initiatives that strengthen and enrich families. They also worked to strengthen religious and reflective models that inspire and empower. Barbados Defence Force Chaplain Ester Adinah Willough by saw the potential of the “care for the care-givers” concept. “Upon my arrival, I immediately felt the care given to the participants…I was thankful for the hospitality and pleased with the presentations, especially U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel [Brian] Bohlman’s [Wing Chaplain for the 169 The overall desired impact of the symposium was to develop a broad network of military chaplains and clergy within the region who are supporting their commands with information and techniques that demonstrate the positive impact of religion on the personnel and therefore the mission. Other chaplains who had previously attended this event, saw it as another means to share experiences and knowledge. Brazilian Military Chaplain Uraja Lucas Mota Diniz said, “This was the second time I participated, and it’s an experience that gives us knowledge both for religious experiences and also with relation to other professional areas that support our religious duties in the same way that we support them.” The attendance of the Brazilian participants also presented an opportunity to discuss next year’s hopes for the Religious Matters Symposium which is tentatively scheduled to take place in Brazil in May 2017. Coinciding with the symposium was the “Family Healing and Reconciliation Forum” augmented by Ms. Nancy Lembke, spouse of former SOUTHCOM Command Chaplain, U.S. Army Colonel (R) Michael Lembke. Psychologists and facilitators from the Colombian Military Diocese and subject matter experts from Suriname and Brazil provided briefings leading to discussions about interdisciplinary relationships with other professionals in addressing the unique issues of the military family. They also touched on seeking pathways to healing, parenting, prevention of domestic violence, stepfamilies, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from a spouse’s perspective, suicide prevention, and coping strategies. These discussions would act as a precursor to the “Women in the Military and Security Conference” for several of the female attendees, held the following week in Trinidad & Tobago. The closing ceremony heralded hope for the success of future symposiums and support from U.S. and partner nation organizations.