Support for staff affected by Middle East conflict

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The University offers support to Student and Wellbeing Advisers around the work they do in connection with the Middle East.

Since October 2023, we have witnessed ongoing violence and loss of life in Israel and Palestine, with more recent repercussions in surrounding countries in the Middle East. In the aftermath of these events, the University has responded by establishing support routes to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our community.  

As part of an emergency response protocol coordinated across various University departments, we have been able to contact staff and students directly impacted to offer support and address the challenges and distressing circumstances they are facing.  

The University Chaplaincy has played a crucial role in delivering a series of events for those with connections to the areas and the wider University community, including a gathering held in the labyrinth of George Square Gardens, and a number of support events for those directly impacted.  

The Edinburgh Global team continues to work with the Council for At-Risk Academics and the Cara Academic at Risk Fellowship Programme to support academics from the area and their families.  

Whether you are a member of staff directly affected, or you have a support role, we invite you to view the University of Sanctuary webpages which offer a list of support available to our community: 

Bulletin spoke to Reverend Dr Urzula Glienecke who has first-hand experience of the impact these difficult events can have on our community and those in support roles. 

She said: “Many Student Advisers have told us that they never expected the heaviness, the immensity of pain and tragedy in the stories that they hear from the students they are supporting. The University Chaplaincy offers one-to-one and group support for Student Advisers both in person and online in these situations. We are there to listen or even to sit in silence for a while. 

We also partake in sharing a strengthening and calming compassion meditation with those who may need it. In times like these, it’s very important to acknowledge the pain, to be with it in compassion with others and also with oneself. We then reach out for the strength and resilience that is deep within us and within the shared humanness of us all.” 

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Rev Dr Urzula Glienecke also shares a meditation used in a recent support group: 

“Sit comfortably on a chair or a cushion with your back straight and head slightly bent forward. You can close your eyes or just lower your gaze – whatever feels most comfortable to you. Take three deep breaths in and out to let go of some of the tension of the day. Then let your breath return to normal. Spend some time observing your breath. See where you feel it most strongly in your body: is it the movement as the air flows in and out? Or the temperature of the air changing: cooler as you breathe in, warmer as you breathe out? Just observe it. And if something distracts you, a thought, a sound, that’s all right. Just turn your attention back to your breath gently and without judgement. 

And now I would like to invite you to imagine hard ground – a pavement or concrete. Or dry desert floor, cracked and hard. Imagine it in as much detail as you can: how it looks, the colours, how it would feel beneath your feet or if you touched it with your palm. Maybe imagine how it would smell. 

Then imagine a plant breaking through the hard ground. 

Imagine the strength and resilience of the plant as it grows tiny bit by bit, pushing against the resistance of the soil or concrete. 

Imagine how it comes out into the light and air. 

Imagine it spreading its roots and opening its leaves. 

Imagine it growing and perhaps forming a flower bud and opening a flower. Imagine how that might feel. 

Feel the strength and the resilience of the plant. Stay with the image and the feeling for a while. Feel the strength and the resilience within yourself. Then send it to the people you are working with. 

Now turn your attention back to your breath. Observe it for a while. Then feel your body’s contact with the chair or cushion you are sitting on. And in your own time come back with your attention into the room and when you are ready – open your eyes.” 

Find out more

A University of Sanctuary: Israel and Palestine | The University of Edinburgh

Like a Root Out of Dry Ground | Iona Books