Belfast to host international ‘Trauma & Spirituality’ Conference

Tuesday November 2nd 2010

Belfast is to host an international conference on Trauma and Spirituality next year which will see the main faith communities come together with mental and public health professionals to discuss the relationships between trauma and spirituality on a global stage.

Trauma & Spirituality – An international Dialogue, organised by the Journey Towards Healing programme based at Niamh (Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health), will take place from March 9-11 2011 at the Europa Hotel. The conference will explore the potential for a more integrated approach to trauma and wellbeing, drawing on experiences from across the world.

It is anticipated that more than 50 presenters from across the globe offering a range of perspectives on trauma and spirituality will speak at the conference attended by up to 250 delegates.  The programme will also include a Northern Ireland Open House Weekend with events for the public hosted at trauma centres, faith communities and community organisations.

Two eminent keynote speakers have been confirmed to make an address at the conference; Kaethe Weingarten, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, who has worked with groups in Kosovo and South Africa on the personal and societal effects of witnessing chronic community violence, and Fr. Michael Lapsley, an Anglican priest who suffered personal injury in South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle and has since led trauma recovery workshops throughout South Africa and many countries around the world affected by conflict.

Peter McBride, Chair of Journey Towards Healing and Niamh Group Chief Executive (Designate) explains the purpose of the conference. “For decades Northern Ireland has suffered major trauma associated with the chronic community conflict of The Troubles,” he said.

“ This conflict trauma has impacted on individuals and their communities, and has traditionally been addressed from either a health or faith perspective.  Until now there has been little opportunity for examining trauma from both perspectives.  The Trauma & Spirituality conference aims to do just this.  By engaging a holistic understanding of trauma, in turn holistic approaches to trauma recovery and sustainable wellbeing can be developed. 

“We recognise there are also experiences and lessons from across the world that explore the complex relationships between spirituality, religion, faith, conflict, violence, trauma and healing.  Like most things, ‘spirituality, religion and faith’ can be harnessed to heal or to harm and we feel it is the right time in history for honest and hopeful conversation about these realities.  Ultimately we hope this international conference will lead to the creation of holistic support for people who have experienced conflict trauma in particular and also for people who have experienced any type of trauma.

“We have been overwhelmed by the interest in the conference so far and we would encourage people to book early as spaces will be limited. The conference is open to the public and will be of particular interest to health & trauma professionals, faith leaders & pastoral workers, trauma survivors, community & social workers, sociologists, government representatives, youth workers & educators,” he said.

Anyone interested in finding out more or in attending can visit

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