Sally Foster Fulton: Will you find peace this Christmas? Millions of people around the world won’t

Diana Abbas is the only psychologist working at a children's centre in Nahr al-Bared camp for Palestinian refugees, in northern Lebanon.
Diana Abbas is the only psychologist working at a children's centre in Nahr al-Bared camp for Palestinian refugees, in northern Lebanon.
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Peace is at the heart of Christmas. It’s a season when, across Scotland, people wish for peace on a personal level, in our families and in our ­communities.

Peace and reconciliation is at the heart of Christian Aid’s identity. One of the founding voices behind ­Christian Aid’s creation after the ­Second World War was Douglas Lister, a Church of Scotland minister and army chaplain based in Germany, who called for reconciliation as a response to the refugee crisis.

Sally Foster Fulton, head of Christian Aid Scotland.

Sally Foster Fulton, head of Christian Aid Scotland.

Tragically though for many people across the world, peace on earth is a distant prospect this Christmas.

Violence and conflict remains the norm for many across the globe. In 2016, more countries experienced violent conflict than at any time in nearly 30 years.

If current trends persist, by 2030 more than half of the world’s ­poorest people will be living in countries affected by high levels of violence. This has devastating consequences for people’s development and ­wellbeing, children especially.

It means people struggle to find food, a home, decent healthcare, ­education and an income. It means they can’t plan for the future.

However, in countries such as ­Lebanon, Colombia and South Sudan, Christian Aid partners – ordinary women and men – are ­creating pockets of peace that bring hope to seemingly hopeless situations. They’re helping to keep families safe, tackle violence and care for individuals who have had traumatic ­experiences.

This year as we take part in remembrance, 100 years on from the WW1, it is a time to not only remember those who have died in wars over this past century, but to support programmes and policies that bring peace-filled solutions in violent spaces.

Today, one child in every six will wake up in a conflict zone around the world.

Children just like Hamza Essa whose family was ripped apart by the conflict in Syria. They were forced to flee their home in Yarmouk refugee camp for Palestinians when fighting made it too dangerous to remain.

Hamza is one of seven children whose brothers and sisters are ­displaced across several countries. He hasn’t seen one of his brothers for nearly five years.

In 2017, Hamza started coming to the children’s centre run by Association Najdeh, Christian Aid’s partner in Lebanon, to visit the social workers and take part in activities, including art therapy. “The centre has helped me a lot, because it makes me ­happy,” he said.

Now, after receiving training from Association Najdeh, Hamza ­volunteers at the centre, working to bring hope and joy to other young ­refugees. He said: “I help the teacher in her class. When I see someone ­crying, I tell them not to cry and tell them that they should stay strong.”

But while peace is broken every day, it is also built every day through the tireless work of peacemakers. This Christmas, Christian Aid is calling for you to stand together with peacemakers around the world who are ­trying to bring hope to seemingly hopeless situations.

In the shadow of violence and ­conflict, Diana Abbas sows the seeds of peace through counselling and therapy. She is the only psychologist at the children’s centre attended by Hamza. “We try to provide the children with a place where they can find peace – working with them, their parents and their whole environment,’ said Diana, who received training from Association Najdeh.

Through psychotherapy, literacy classes and art therapy, the centre gives young Palestinian refugees the chance to overcome the violence they have witnessed. Thanks to Diana and others at the centre, more children can find peace.

But resources are stretched. Diana said: “There is a need for more ­psychologists – I don’t just handle ­cases here in the centre, cases are also referred to me from other organisations. We need a playground for ­children, so that they can play in a safe way. We also need educational materials and games.”

Now more than ever, we need peace. With your support, it is ­possible this Christmas. It is up to us to do what we can in our daily lives to help frontline peacemakers like Diana and Hamza.

You can be a peacemaker with your donation to Christmas Aid – an appeal to raise vital funds for ­Christian Aid’s work. Just £10 pays for three young women to attend a community dialogue event that will help them learn about effective ways of reducing crime. £130 could pay for a psychologist to provide one week of counselling and therapy to young refugees in Lebanon.

Will you stand with the peacemakers this Christmas? You can make a donation by visiting www.caid.org.uk/christmas-appeal or calling 0845 700 0300.

Sally Foster Fulton, head of Christian Aid Scotland.