IASC is an association with the aim to foster exchange in the fields of research and practice of Spiritual Care. Its members are researchers, practitioners, and other interested parties who are involved in Spiritual Care.
Save the Date: IASC Conference 2018, July 8 – 10 in New York City at Union Theological Seminary
The Third annual conference of the International Association for Spiritual Care (IASC) will explore “Religious Conflicts: External and Internal.” It will take place on July 8 – 10, 2017.
The conference is organized by the IASC in collaboration with the University of Bern, Switzerland.
The CALL FOR WORKSHOP PROPOSALS is now posted.
Stay tuned for details about registration and featured speakers. We look forward to seeing you in New York!
Fall 2017: Letter from the IASC President
Warmest greetings to each of you.
For those who were able to attend the conference in Jerusalem this past July, we hope the insights and transformative conversations have continued to fortify and inspire your work. Without a doubt, it seems the matters with which we grappled could hardly be more timely: the research and practice of spiritual care in volatile times.
I hope you might take a moment to read the conference report below, and glance through a few photos from our time together. Please note, if you were not able to attend the conference, scroll to the bottom for links to videorecorded sessions available online now.
Looking ahead, please stay tuned for forthcoming details about the IASC 2018 Conference, to be held in New York City!
Yours in a spirit of hope,
Prof. Dr. Isabelle Noth
IASC Conference Report – Fall 2017
by Lorne Anderson
Spiritual Challenges in Context of Political Conflict. This was the theme for the IASC’s second annual conference which took place in Jerusalem this July. Reconsidering the nature of spiritual care in a cross disciplinary context was especially important considering the challenges of working in changing environments brought about by increasing migration in Europe, unexpected politics in the United States, and increasing sentiments of nationalism and conservative religiosity that are emerging in many global contexts. The IASC’s conference provided the perfect opportunity to bring academics and professionals together from around the globe to share knowledge while learning from local Israeli and Palestinian organizations who have been navigating a politically challenging context for decades. This year’s conference was an especially necessary event which displayed why conferences, and the opportunity to share knowledge at a global level, are so important.
Pre-learning and the AdaSha Multi-Narrative tour
Spiritual care in Israel and Palestine is itself a profound challenge and to ensure international attendees had a handle on the political context in which spiritual care occurs, the organized a comprehensive pre-conference study tour. Over five days, participants were taking on a multi-narrative tour of new Jerusalem, the religious sites of the Old City, Bethlehem, the Tent of Nations, a refugee camp in Bethlehem and a geo-political tour of east and west Jerusalem. Participants learned about how different religious and geographical situations affect outreach, care and everyday life. This gave them a far broader platform by which to interpret both the political reality of Israel and Palestine as well as the discussions that were a part of the conference itself. This pre-event received some very positive feedback and was an important component of the annual conference.
Is Forgiveness Necessary?
The first keynote of the conference was delivered by Dr. Pamela Cooper-White who shared a theological exposition relating to whether victims of violence are required to forgive perpetrators. Drawing on years of experience counseling and supporting women who have been victims of domestic violence, she witnessed first-hand the destructive impacts when forgiveness is expected and demanded from a self-help paradigm. Her sharing encouraged spiritual care providers to consider how they conceptualize forgiveness and how they incorporated it into their practice. Through an in-depth theological exploration of how forgiveness is spoken about from a Christian Biblical perspective, Dr. Cooper-White encouraged spiritual care providers to be careful with the kinds of expectations that practitioners give about the necessity and impact of forgiveness so as not add extra pressure to those already struggling with trauma.
What do you do when there are no Safe Spaces?
The Rossing Center and the Holy Land Trust were able to arrange for Dr. Ahmed Tawahini, a psychotherapist from Gaza, to attend and make a presentation to the conference. It is important to note the efforts of both of these organizations in their commitment to ensuring that there was a true commitment to multiple narratives at the conference. Dr. Tawahini brought some sobering reminders that spiritual care is not always an easy or pre-prescribed discipline. He shared a particular example of when he sought to implement a new therapy technique which encouraged the individual to create a safe space within their memory. From this safe space, the individual then has a cognitive reference point to be able to center her/himself, affirm her/himself as person and then re-emerge to face her/his present trauma. Complications arose in Dr. Tawahini’s work when patients with whom he was working were unable to identify any safe spaces in their memories. This humbling realization that politically conflicted contexts can have such immeasurable impacts on the individuals within was a call for compassion for those in the field of spiritual care. How do those associated with spiritual care help such traumatized individuals create spaces for healing and do we need to be more aware of the potential limitations of the intervention methods that we use to assist those who have experienced ongoing trauma?
Moments of dialogue and insight at the IASC 2017 conference.
Healing the Hatred of Collective Community Trauma
“What is the impact of trauma at the community level, and how do we address it?” This was the question posed by Fr. Michael Lapsley from the Healing Memories Institute in South Africa. The Healing Memories Institute in South Africa works to assist victims of apartheid inspired violence to heal the traumatic memories of their experiences. From Fr. Lapsley’s work he became aware of the deep and lingering impact of trauma at the community level. He encouraged participants to consider how the experience of trauma could affect victimhood and then consider the impact on future generations if pain is passed on. The potential for human beings to be both victims and perpetrators was an important part of his message and within the community experience of trauma there is the potential for older generations to hand on their pain to younger generations in ways that reinforce dualistic narratives which becomes the basis of future violence in society.
Building the Language of Spiritual Care
Political conflict can have wide ranging effects from collective community trauma through to individual physical violence and each environment brings about a unique set of challenges for spiritual carers. At this year’s Healing Hatred conference over 200 speakers and participants gathered to share professional and personal experiences, theological expositions, and historical critiques to help build a more comprehensive language for spiritual care. In particular, themes of forgiveness, competitive victimhood and historical trauma were explored with keynote speakers from the United States (Dr. Pamela Cooper-White), South Africa (Fr. Michael Lapsley) and Gaza (Dr. Ahmed Abu Tawahina) who shared some of the ways in which their work has challenged and redefined their approaches to spiritual care.
Harnessing a Holistic Approach to Spiritual Care
A true wealth of knowledge was shared at the conference: in addition to the other keynote speakers, discussion panels featured dialogues about the abuse of religions for political means as well as important conversations asking what makes people change. The conversations truly embodied the multi-disciplinary and holistic nature of the IASC organization and displayed why it is so critical to have such an organization. There were rabbis and pastors, therapists and nurses, hospice workers, chaplains, interfaith leaders and academics from around the globe sharing with, learning from, and encouraging one another’s experiences. With the conference being organized to have events in both Jerusalem and Bethlehem the experience was made available to Israeli, Palestinian and international guests who were all able to richly affect the conversations at the conference. While it is important to recognize that each political conflict has its own set of unique challenges and interventions will not be universally applicable, there is a profound encouragement when those working in the spiritual care field share about their work. Spiritual care is a difficult, and at times thankless discipline where resolutions are not a guarantee. By coming together and harnessing the vastness of the experiences of professionals from around the globe we affirm the work that has already been done and encourage creative thinking for future projects. One of the most profound learnings of the conference was the fact that spiritual care has tremendous variety and thus immense potential to reach communities who are affected by political conflict.
Save the Date: IASC Conference 2017, July 9 – 11 in Palestine / Israel
The Second Annual Conference of the IASC on “Healing Hatred: Spiritual Challenges in a Context of Political Conflict” will take place on July 9 – 11, 2017. The first day will be in Jerusalem, the second in Bethlehem and the third day in Beit Jala (Palestine / Israel).
The conference is organized by the International Association for Spiritual Care in collaboration with the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, the Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue and the Holy Land Trust.
Fr. Michael Lapsley SSM Cape Town, South Africa) A South African Anglican priest and social justice activist. Director of the Institute for Healing Memory.
Sami Awad (Bethlehem, Palestine) Executive Director of Holy Land Trust
Dr. Sarah Bernstein (Jerusalem, Israel) Director of the Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue.
Dr. Ruhama Weiss (Jerusalem, Israel) Director of the Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling in the Hebrew Union College.
Prof. Dr. Pamela Cooper-White (New York, USA) Christiane Brooks Johnson Professor of Psychology and Religion at Union Theological Seminary in New York.
Sarah Snyder (Cumbria, United Kingdom) Advisor to the Archbishop of Canterbury on Reconciliation.
Dr. Michael Marmur (Jerusalem, Israel) Rabbi, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Provost at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
Prof. Dr. Emmanuel Y. Lartey, Professor of Pastoral Theology, Care, and Counseling, Emory University, Atlanta, USA
Prof. Dr. med. Christina Puchalski, Founder and Director of the GW Institute for Spirituality & Health, Washington, USA
Prof. Dr. theol. et med. Doris Nauer (Vallendar, Germany)
Prof. Dr. Duane R. Bidwell (Claremont, USA)
Prof. Dr. Alexander Bischoff (Fribourg, Switzerland)
Prof. Dr. Pamela Cooper-White (New York, USA)
Dr. iur. Sarah Bernstein and Prof. Dr. Ruhama Weiss (Jerusalem, Israel)
Lic. phil. Sarah El Bulbeisi (Munich, Germany)
Prof. Dr. Isabelle Noth (Bern, Switzerland)
Prof. Dr. Daniel Schipani (Indiana, USA)
Prof. Dr. phil. Hansjörg Znoj (Bern, Switzerland)