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FIELD REPORT
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 278-283

Rituals and healing ceremonies help to promote psychosocial wellbeing by increasing sense of identity and community in Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh


MPhil, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Programme Manager, International Organization for Migration, Nigeria

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/INTV.INTV_52_19

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In Myanmar, the Rohingya were prohibited from engaging in activities that preserved their cultural and religious identities. An assessment was conducted by the International Organization for Migration in 2018 with Rohingya refugees residing in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to identify key factors to promote psychosocial wellbeing. These factors were strengthening sense of identity, practising their faith and participating in group and community activities. It was also found that prayers, music and art were key aspects of coping mechanisms. The Healing Ceremonies programme was developed in 2018 to provide a space to reconnect with their memory as an ethnic group and to contribute to healing the collective wounds of the community. Three sessions of bi-weekly healing ceremonies were conducted in 10 refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The three sessions, each representing different elements of Rohingya culture, were held with 850 Rohingya refugees participating, ranging in age from 25 to 53 years and another group between 54 and 70+ years of age. Children were also invited to attend and to benefit from ceremonies and activities to reconnect them with a sense of protection from their community and primary caregivers. There were a total of 36 sessions held over the course of the programme, covering music, art and symbols of strength, followed by focus group discussions on the impacts of the sessions. The children did not participate in these discussions and, therefore, were not included in the group participant numbers. The discussions highlighted positive changes including a sense of calmness and joy from participating in the healing ceremonies that led to an increase in their sense of wellbeing, and that the focus on positive aspects led to feeling less hopeless. Further, it is expected, that by providing a safe space where community members can reconnect with their collective memory and identity, they will be supported in healing collective wounds resulting from a history of persecution and denial of their identity.


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