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The Monitor's View

After large-scale killings, aid groups find new ways to comfort

Shift in thought

 From Florida to post-ISIS Iraq, incidents of mass violence have pushed humanitarian groups to offer care for trauma and ways for communities to rebond.

Civilians in Mosul line up for aid distribution. in the Mamun neighbourhood. Picture taken March 15, 2017. Ivor Prickett, for The New York Times/World Press Photo handout via REUTERS NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
Ivor Prickett, for The New York Times/World Press Photo handout via REUTERS
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  • The Monitor's Editorial Board

Charitable giving in the United States went up 4 percent last year, a nice jump after near-zero growth the year before, according to the Blackbaud Institute. The causes include a better economy, big hurricanes, and the ease of online giving. But also of note is that giving was even higher to faith-based and international aid groups.

One reason may be a new trend in giving: With more places suffering mass killing of innocent people, whether in Iraqi cities or in American schools, charities seek to heal individuals and communities of the trauma from such large-scale violence.

Like the aftermath of a natural disaster, individuals hit by mass killing must deal with fear, loss, and sadness. Humanitarian aid in the form of emotional and spiritual support is as necessary as physical relief and restoration. The violence has disrupted families and other relationships. To bring hope and reduce anxiety, the bonds of community must be restored. The simple act of caring can itself bring healing.

The latest example is the care offered to Parkland, Fla., after the Feb. 14 shooting at the local high school. Churches and other groups from afar have sent people to assist the families of victims and the community at large. For many of the visiting Christians, their prayers have led them to acts of love. Similar assistance was offered after other mass shootings in the US, such as that at a Las Vegas concert; in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas; and in a nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Humanitarian organizations are also active in former conflict zones where violence against civilians was widespread. A good example is the work in Iraqi cities newly liberated from the Islamic State (ISIS) and that group’s almost daily killings of civilians over three years.

An estimated 5.5 million Iraqis are now receiving post-conflict assistance. “Iraq and its people have survived great horror and pain,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres at a conference this week in Kuwait that sought to raise money for rebuilding Iraq.

The social fabric of Iraqi cities such as Mosul must be restored, especially among ethnic and religious groups, in order to avoid yet another rise of a terrorist group like ISIS. Some in those groups gave support to ISIS.

“Iraq must come to terms with simmering, unresolved grievances and deep societal wounds that, left unaddressed, could generate another round of extremism and sectarian violence,” states Nancy Lindborg, president of the United States Institute of Peace. That body supports the work of grassroot groups trying to reconcile Sunni and Shiite Muslims, ethnic Kurds, and religious minorities such as Christians and Yazidis.

At the donors’ conference for Iraq, both private groups and governments pledged $30 billion toward the reconstruction of the country. Some of the money will be used to help Iraqis recover from the trauma of violence. They will need the comfort of caring individuals as much as the rebuilding of their homes and businesses.

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