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New Project Aims to Educate Churches About Restorative Justice.

Continuing the tradition of calling the church take action on social issues, the Southern Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) will launch Project Help: Restorative Justice in June 2002. Taking as its theme “Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly”, the Project Help national task force has identified different ways that churches can provide services to those affected by crime and developed several ministry resources.

The Project Help website states its purpose as “to involve God's people in bringing healing, wholeness, and peace to victims, offenders, communities, and law enforcement and criminal justice professionals affected by crime.”  The projects views are informed both by the Biblical mandate to minister to those in need and the restorative paradigm of crime being a harm that must be repaired and that all parties affected by crime should be involved in the response. Project Help: Restorative Justice's general goals are 

  1. Education- to develop an understanding of restorative justice and why the church should be involved in the response to crime
  2. Motivation- to inspire and equip individuals or churches to become involved in restorative justice ministry 
  3. Activate: to lead churches or their members in starting or participating in a restorative justice ministry.

This ministry focus seeks to fill the spaces neglected by the criminal justice system.  The Restorative Justice Ministry Resource Guide outlines restorative justice, the trauma experienced by all those affected by crime and the needs they have. It breaks down the different needs for all of those impacted by crime and provides advice and resources for churches to respond.  These include:

  • Victims (and their families)    

  • Offenders 

  • Families of Offenders  

  • Ex-offenders

  • Law Enforcement Personnel

The goal is to create a space for understanding and healing for these groups as they work for reconciliation and reintegration.  

In the educational aspect of Project Help: Restorative Justice, the resource guide provides outline for holding a church or community wide conference. The conference outline walks organizers through the learning and planning stages. Materials also include guidelines for researching the services already being offered in the community as well as how to meet the needs of the those impacted by crime. 

Throughout the two year focus on restorative justice, WMU will provide other resources through quarterly resource kits and its publications.

 

By Lynette Parker

June  2002

 

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