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Living Restoratively

It is one thing to embrace the idea of restorative justice and another to live it. The following articles explore this problem and suggest ways to do both.

Norden, Peter S. J. Making things right: A vision for criminal justice
Peter Norden, a Jesuit, has been visiting Australian prisons for over twenty years. He maintains that the Australian past influences attitudes toward crime and response to crime. Specifically, he believes that Australia’s history – as a penal colony for England – significantly shapes what he claims is the general public’s rigidly punitive stance toward those in prison. Norden examines the use of imprisonment in Australia and public perspectives on imprisonment, and he asks the question whether imprisonment is an effective response to criminal behavior. In this context, he states that a new and better approach is needed, which he identifies as restorative justice. He then develops a theological analysis, based on Christian values, of restorative justice.
Shattuck, Michelle D and Lampman, Lisa Barnes. God and the victim: Theological reflections on evil, victimization, justice, and forgiveness
This collection of essays grew out of a 1997 "Theological Forum on Crime Victims and the Church," sponsored by Neighbors Who Care. Neighbors Who Care (NWC) was a non-profit organization affiliated with Prison Fellowship Ministries. The purpose of NWC was to assist churches that serve victims of crime in their congregations and communities. Seeing a need for serious theological and biblical reflection on issues of crime victimization and the Christian Church, NWC invited a number of religious scholars, clergy, and victim service-providers to present papers on and discuss key issues facing crime victims. Out of that forum in 1997 came the essays in this book. Written by various participants in the forum, the chapters cover questions about the presence of God in relation to the experience of crime, the role of the Church in caring for crime victims, victimization and healing, restoring justice, forgiveness, and more. Included in the book are a study guide for individuals and groups, recommendations for further study, resources for victim services, and a list of forum participants and contributors to the book.
Faith into Action. Faith and criminal justice. Resource guide
Faith into Action was developed to assist clergy of African descent, the broader faith community, and community groups who work with religious organizations to build stronger communities. Faith institutions’ involvement with criminal justice in the United States dates back to the eighteenth century and the establishment of penitentiaries by American Quakers. This particular resource guide is intended to assist contemporary people of faith and faith institutions with issues and activities related to ministry in the criminal justice sphere. After an introduction to the historical relationship between faith institutions and criminal justice, the guide provides information on Scriptural support for the responsibilities of the faith community to those who are imprisoned, data on the prison population, strategies for faith institutions to reach out to offenders and ex-offenders, and a survey of best practices and resources among faith institutions.
Allender, Dan B. The mark of evil
Using stories from real life and his experiences as a counselor, Dan B. Allender points out that encounters with evil acts and people can radically challenge our sense of order and meaning, including our faith in God. With this in mind, he explores how evil forces us to examine ourselves and God by focusing on three issues: (1) the heart of evil; (2) the horror of evil; and (3) the hope of redemption from evil. Evil damages and harms what is good in human existence, especially faith, hope, and love. Victims of evil experience powerlessness, betrayal, and deep ambivalence. Yet God offers the promise of redemption, leading to the possibility of increase in faith, hope, and love. Thus, through this chapter, Allender aims to help victims understand themselves better, to understand God better, and even to love God better.
Consedine, Jim. A Harsh Reality - A Merciful Response
Beginning with an indictment of the retributive criminal justice system and the modern prison system, Consedine calls for the Christian Church to respond to issues of crime, law, and order with an alternative approach. This approach should express Good News. It should be based on justice, equity, fairness, and accountability. Yet it should also be guided by wisdom tempered by mercy, thus always seeking the possibility of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation for victims and offenders. To develop this perspective, Consedine explores justice in relation to the common good and to law; biblical justice; shalom, social justice, and covenant; the New Testament and justice; and respect, mercy, forgiveness, and pardon.
Carter, Rod. Restorative Justice: A Christian Perspective
This magazine-sized publication serves as a resource on restorative justice from a Christian point of view. Including material from many people, it consists of a number of articles and special features covering many topics. For example, different authors cover a variety of matters relating to the nature and purpose of restorative justice, among them the following: justice that restores; healing instead of punishing; reconciliation and prison chaplaincy; grace; the cost of restoration; reconciliation in capital murder cases; and the roots of forgiveness in the Christian faith tradition. One article specifically deals with the Scriptural bases of restorative justice. Other articles present principles of restorative justice, restorative justice initiatives, and a history of victim offender reconciliation. Helpful information is also provided for those who want to explore additional resources: important books and web sites on restorative justice; university and college programs; resource people in restorative justice; contact information for relevant organizations; and prayers for use in criminal justice settings.
Cannon, Mae Elise. Social justice handbook: Small steps for a better world.
Mae Elise Cannon provides a comprehensive resource for Christians committed to social justice. She presents biblical rationale for justice and explains a variety of Christian approaches to doing justice. Tracing the history of Christians in social engagement, she lifts out role models and examples from the Great Awakeings to the civil rights movement. A wide-ranging catalog of topics gives background information about justice issues at home and abroad. (publisher's description)
Ballot, Jordan J.. To reform or to abolish? Christian perspectives on punishment, prison, and restorative justice.
In this Essay, I will attempt to fill in a gap in preceding studies of restorative justice by paying special attention to the religious, most specifically to the Christian, perspectives on restorative justice. I will show that it is more accurate to speak of a plurality of restorative justice movements than of a unified and univocal restorative justice movement, particularly with respect to the variety of Christian approaches. (7) In delineating the various Christian perspectives on restorative justice, I will use as a primary litmus test the various figures' attitudes toward government coercion and punishment, most particularly with regard to incarceration, detention, and imprisonment. Attitudes toward prison provide an excellent way to map out the restorative justice landscape. Other types of punishment, such as the death penalty, are less helpful in getting at the crux of the disagreements and distinctive elements of each position, simply because there is so much agreement about the non-restorative nature of such sanctions. An expression representative of the general consensus is given by Howard Zehr: "'Restorative' has become such a popular term that many acts and efforts are being labeled 'restorative,' but in fact they are not. Some of these might be rescued. Others cannot. The death penalty, which causes additional and irreparable harm, is one of the latter." (8) Imprisonment can be seen both as the most serious regular form of non-capital punishment and as the factor that undergirds the efficacy of the entire criminal justice system, and therefore makes a most useful point of reference. (excerpt)
Chiste, Katherine Beaty. Faith Based Organization and the Pursuit of Restorative Justice.
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Petersen, Rodney L.. Branding Identity for the Twenty-First Century: Church as Neighbourhood Centre for Forgiveness and Reconciliation and for Restorative Justice
"As we have examined the "branding" of Christianity for the twenty-first century, what we have not done is to analyse the "competition", i.e. competing religious or ideological visions. We know too well that as we examine the effect of multi-religious teaching situations on the articulation of, and orientation towards, moral and religious identities, a sociocultural view on learning must be applied to inter-religious learning by engaging in the dialogue between religions in a learning situation. Various perspectives have been drawn in that even argue that a Christian identity is inseparable from finding room for the identity of others." (Abstract)
Demetrios, Archbishop. A Christian Spirituality of Peace and Justice in a Violent World
"In order to answer these difficult questions, we as Christians and churches in a violent world must understand the significance of our spirituality of peace and justice. We must examine carefully the foundations of a Christian spirituality of peace and justice as revealed to us by Christ and through the witness of the great Saints, Teachers, and Martyrs of the Church. By looking to the foundation of our faith we can know the true definition of peace and justice, the significance of these for our lives, relationships and hopes, and how these are offered to our world. This is an essential place to begin in examining any relationship between Christian spirituality and violence. And let us begin by first examining a basic aspect of this relationship, namely, peace and justice in the teachings and ministry of Christ." (Abstract)
Clapsis, Emmanuel. Violence and Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Conversation
"What is the relationship of our Christian faith to the violence we see in the world? How do we respond to violence in a manner that is rooted in our faith and our relationship to God? In this relationship with a God of peace and justice, how do we experience peace and justice in our own lives and labour so that they may be realised in the lives of others, in our communities, and in our world? These are some of the questions addressed by a number of theologians and lay people from different Christian traditions when they met in 2005 for an ecumenical conversation on Violence and Christian Spirituality. Edited by the Orthodox theologian, Fr. Emmanuel Clapsis, their papers cover issues such as Christian witness in overcoming violence, including reference to the World Council of Churches' Decade to Oversome Violence (2001-2010), the churches; response to domestic violence, religious freedom and human rights, and contributions towards an ecumenical spirituality for a culture of peace." (Editor's Abstract)
Marshall, Christopher D.. Reflections on the Spirit of Justice
"A second critical idea that recurs throughout these pages is that of the nature of justice itself, its fundamental importance for everyone and the extent that it is, in many ways, the benchmark of human goodness. Christopher Marshall (chapter 18) reflects on these ideas in his chapter on the spirit of justice. He also discusses the parallels between restorative justice ideas and the fundamental Christian values that are central to his thinking and to that of many others within our society." (Abstract)
Steven, Helen. The spiritual basis of peacemaking
In this paper, Helen Steven explores the connections she sees between restorative justice or peacemaking and fundamental spiritual values. A member of the Iona Community off the west coast of Scotland, she points to this community’s commitment to justice and peace and the underlying Christian beliefs and values that shape and motivate that commitment. With personal examples from her life and work as a member of Iona, she reflects on the application of those beliefs and values in seeking a just peace.
Reimer, Sandra. That’s gonna leave a mark!
Ray of Hope is an interdenominational Christian organization in Ontario, Canada, the mission of which is to demonstrate the love of Christ to those who are disadvantaged, marginalized, or in conflict with the law. In this article, Sandra Reimer relates the story of a guard who was seriously injured by two young offenders when he gave chase as they escaped from their detention program. Subsequent to the injury and the capture of the young offenders, the guard and the two youths met in a family group conference, assisted by Ray of Hope personnel, to deal with the harm and its consequences for all parties involved. Weaving in basic principles and practices of restorative justice, Reimer describes the conference and its outcomes.
Northey, Wayne. Restorative justice and prison visitation
M2/W2 Association is an organization of Christian volunteers in corrections in British Columbia. Wayne Northey is executive director of this organization. In this article Northey roots the practice of prison visitation in restorative justice and points to biblical foundations for restorative justice. Examples from the ministry of M2/W2 Association in correctional facilities in British Columbia illustrate the potential of restorative, transformative justice to change lives.
Mansill, Douglas. Community empowerment perspectives in restorative justice practice
Speaking as a minister in the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, the Reverend Douglas Mansill emphasizes community empowerment and well being in his work and in this address. He argues on the basis of his experience that adversarial processes often do not produce true justice: they tend to deny rather than discover truth; fail to meet the needs of all parties involved in a conflict situation; and focus on the offender rather than the victim, sometimes to the further traumatization of the victim and to the exclusion of mitigating circumstances concerning the offender. Restorative justice processes, in contrast, do a better job of seeking true justice for individuals and communities. In this regard, Mansill points to Biblical principles of peace, justice, mercy, and healing. He also identifies four key components of restorative justice: recognition of accountability for offenders; satisfaction of the needs of victims; negotiation of a community response; and empowerment of the community affected by the harm.
Duce, Allan. A prison chaplain looks at punishment
In this paper, the Reverend Alan Duce, chaplain at a prison in England, seeks to bring Christian ideas and beliefs to bear on the complex and emotional issues of incarceration and punishment. The main topics of his essay are these: a discussion of the history and understanding of prison chaplaincy; the historical role of theology in relation to punishment, as well as contemporary theology and punishment; pertinent Biblical doctrines on human nature, guilt, punishment, repentance, forgiveness, and justice; and classic theories of punishment, especially retribution and utilitarianism.
Heise, Evan. Spiritual roots of restorative justice- A Christian perspective
In this essay, Evan Heise states that restorative justice practice in Canada and the United States is rooted in the Christian tradition. This tradition is rooted in the Law and Prophets of the Old Testament, the teachings of Jesus, and the understanding and practice of the early Church. To explicate the sources of restorative justice in this tradition, Heise examines the covenant law of the Old testament and the teachings of Jesus; God’s wrath, punishment, and retribution in relation to the gospel of grace; and secular and Biblical conceptions of community, with emphasis on community in relation to restorative justice and the Kingdom of God.
Correctional Service of Canada. Harmony and healing: Broken wings take new flight. Restorative Justice Week 2000: Spiritual resource kit.
As part of a set of materials on restorative justice, developed in connection with a worldwide observation of Restorative Justice Week, the Correctional Service Canada provides this resource kit. It is a tool for people who want to explore spiritual foundations for restorative justice. The first section of the booklet deals with relevant ideas and principles from the perspective of a general spirituality: the “ten commandments of restorative justiceâ€? by Howard Zehr; forgiveness; inspirational reflections from various sources; and resources for further exploration. Subsequent sections focus on particular spiritual perspectives: aboriginal; Christian; Jewish; Muslim; Sikh; and Buddhist.

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