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Faith Communities and Restorative Justice

Faith communities are touched by restorative thinking and practice in a number of ways. They may use restorative processes to resolve their own conflicts. Their members may be victims, offenders and/or family members of both. They may seek to influence their communities to support restorative programmes. They may sponsor, or their members may participate in, those programmes. And they may advocate for systemic change to make restorative justice a more prominent part of their community's response to crime. Or they may do none of those things. The following articles consider the challenging and sometimes complicated relationship between faith communities and restorative justice.

The image of God in each of us could change how Christians view prison reform
from the entry by Elise Amyx on Institute for Faith, Work & Economics: On Monday, January 26th, faith leaders gathered in Washington D.C. to discuss restorative justice as a Christian approach to the criminal justice system. The United States is home to more incarcerated citizens than any other nation in the entire world. With 25 percent of the world’s prison population behind bars in the U.S., prison reform is an issue of rising bipartisan support in Washington. It’s also a huge concern among Christian social justice advocates, especially since there is a strong link between incarceration rates and poverty rates and reform may greatly improve overall human well-being.
Restorative justice element needed in sacrament of penance
from the article on CatholicIreland.net: Purely verbal approach to repentance is not enough says President of Maynooth. As Catholic churches all over the world stayed open last night and today to celebrate “a festival of forgiveness” through the ’24 hours for the Lord’ initiative, the President of St Patrick’s College Maynooth has said there is a real need for restorative justice in the sacrament of Confession.
Restorative justice in Islam: Should qisas be considered a form of restorative justice?
abstract of the article by Susan C. Hascall published in the Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern & Islamic Law: The restorative justice movement challenges conventional approaches to sentencing and punishment by involving the victim, community, and perpetrator in sentencing. The movement is characterized by an emphasis on the restoration of relationships, healing and rehabilitation.
Peacemaking circles become a way of living on Chicago’s South Side
from Ken Butigan's article on waginNonviolence.org: “Four friends of mine were killed this summer,” Jonathan Little tells a group of college students visiting Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, a kind of peace zone in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. The young man’s voice is somber but composed, as if he has taken the full measure of this abyss of suffering. He has decided that it’s his duty to honor the dead by methodically pushing on with the work — the quest, really — of finding a way out of the storm of violence that bears down on the young in the precincts of poverty and institutionalized racism on the South Side of Chicago.
Police hunt church arsonists, aged just six and nine
from the article by Tammy Hughes in the Mail: A devastating arson attack carried out on a church was committed by two schoolchildren aged just six and nine. Religious books, a valuable alter cloth, carpets and fittings were all destroyed in the blaze amounting to £10,000 worth of damage.
Transformative Justice and “Cities of Refuge:” Miklat, Miklat Zine (REVISED)
from the article by Lewis Wallace and Micah Bazant in Miklat, Miklat Zine ....Another strategy for addressing transgression, mentioned in the Torah, are the Cities of Refuge or Miklat Arei. In theory, a person accused of a serious crime, even a capital offense, could flee to a City of Refuge and live out their life, safe from violent retribution. The Talmud states that these cities should be evenly spaced throughout the land and accessible by wide and well-maintained roads. At every crossroad there should be a signpost marked Miklat (Refuge). The Cities of Refuge were not only a location for individual sanctuary but a vehicle for spiritual expiation and cleansing of society and the land.
A chance to heal unholy wounds
from Bronwyn Pike's article in the National Times: For many years, religious organisations have grappled with the need to improve the ways they deal with abusive behaviour by their own clergy. In my previous role as director of social justice in the Uniting Church during the 1990s, I worked with my colleagues to develop sexual abuse complaints procedures. In that task I gained an appreciation of just how challenging and complex this issue can be.
FaithCARE: Creating restorative congregations
from the article by Joshua Wachtel on the IIRP website: ....FaithCARE—Faith Communities Affirming Restorative Experiences — grew from a two-day retreat in 2007 that explored the possibilities for employing restorative practices in a faith-community context. Following the retreat, the group, including restorative justice pioneers Mark Yantzi and the late Rev. Stu Schroeder, as well as others still involved in the project, formed a steering committee to develop operational concepts for resolving conflict in churches and find ways to use restorative processes for decision making and relationship building in faith communities.
The measure with which we measure
from the article by Andrew Skotnicki in Baylor's Christian Reflections issue on Prison: The decisive factor in overturning not only the ordeal, but the fear of Christians to will the punishment of others, was the inauguration of systems of law—first canon law which began its development in the late eleventh century and, in its wake, secular legal systems. With this epic turning of the moral tide, a third factor was brought into the equation of viewing human weakness: an offense was not only an affront to God and to the victim, it was also an affront to the law. In light of this legal revolution, perhaps the most influential revolution in Western history, the meaning of human acts against their fellows took on a new appellation and gravity. They were not only sins that required forgiveness by a priest in confession, they were also crimes, and the offender had to be punished because he or she had broken the law.
Christian critiques of the penal system
from the article by L. Lynette Parker in Baylor's Christian Reflections issue on Prison: ....While approaching the issues from different theological and philosophical traditions, the above authors nevertheless agree on the problems with contemporary criminal justice and together begin to trace the outlines of a solution. The problems: institutional forces benefit from a destructive status quo; the public view of prisoners makes citizens indifferent to their plight; and an emphasis on individual responsibility fails to take seriously the systemic injustice that prisoners face. The solutions: remember that prisoners, too, are made in the image of God; address the systemic causes of crime; and learn to love the people touched by crime.
Intervention in church conflict
from the entry by Alexandria Skinner in JustPeace: There is no such thing as a church without conflict. If your church has a conflict, that is something to be thankful for! Conflict means that people are engaged in the life of the church and that they have interests they care about. It is healthy for a church to acknowledge that it has some conflict, for then the causes of conflict can be brought to light and addressed, hopefully in a way that leaves people feeling like they have a better understanding of each other, of each other’s goals, and happy about the end result. Indeed, the goal of peacemaking in a congregation is not to snuff out conflict and pretend that it doesn’t exist. Nor is it to go to war to route out various factions. In between these two options is a middle ground.
offender accountability & restorative justice
I did not write this original post but I would like to respond to Ken's comments above. The primary tenets of restorative justice include offender [...]
Actions speak louder
I tend to agree that holding the offenders to a higher level of accountability is not necessarily revenge. If done in a forgiving and restorative [...]
youths, graffiti and restorative justice
Thank you this story. I read the comment by Melanie above and was not sure I agreed. I wrote a blog post for rjonline on [...]
great story - and similar situation at church in Lancaster County, PA
Sounds like the people at the Bridport church really "walk the talk" of forgiveness and reconciliation. Kudos to them! I happened to speak at a [...]
Church vandals apologise to congregation
from the article by Rene Gerryts on Bridport News: Four of the youngsters responsible for vandalising a Bridport church stood before its congregation on Sunday to apologise. The quartet – whose images were captured on CCTV – agreed to take part in the new Restorative Justice scheme. ....Mr Evans said: “It is the first time I have been involved in this sort of system and it was terrific.
sex offenders and church
I myself, am a convicted offender (1990), who has experienced first hand, whether or not I can attend church, and if so, where, and under [...]
Restorative justice
from Susan Lee Giles' article on My Roseville: When he joined the congregation for a Sunday service they saw a quiet, shy young man barely past boyhood. As they listened to him they finally understood what had happened and at last knew that the church had not been the target of a hate crime. A nagging fear vanished. Now it was clear that the fire was an accident and the boys had emptied every fire extinguisher trying to put it out and left not knowing that an ember would ignite and burn down the building. The young man listened quietly as each person told him what the fire had meant to them personally. When every person had finished he told them that until that moment he had only thought of it as an empty building but now he saw faces of people, a community, whose lives had been impacted by the fire. He said he was truly sorry and ashamed and offered to come back and work for the church.
Churches grapple with whether to welcome convicted sex offenders
from the article by Adelle M. Banks in the Washington Post: "All are welcome" is a common phrase on many a church sign and Web site. But what happens when a convicted sex offender is at the door? Church officials and legal advocates are grappling with how -- and whether -- people who have been convicted of sex crimes should be included in U.S. congregations, especially when children are present:
healing victims in clergy abuse cases
Hello, John. I was surprised by your comment above: "There appears in many victim support systems to be an almost zealous rush to bring victims/survivors [...]

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