Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Restorative Justice happens even when its not called Restorative Justice.

Last month I attending the 2010 Mennonite Central Committee Restorative Justice Gathering near Laird SK. This year's theme was Aboriginal experiences of community based justice. Throughout the week three stories from presenters and participants stood out for me.

The first story involved the history of the Young Chippewayan people near Laird SK. In 1876, land in this area was promised to them as part of treaty #6, which was not honored. The Young Chippewayan people have recently approached the Mennonites, who are currently living on the land, to start a conversation. As each group shared their stories and the significance of the land they recognized the importance of the other's story. As a result they have been able to find common values and hopes that they can build on for a future partnership.

The second story was that of a family who had recently immigrated to Canada. The children in the family were struggling with racial bullying at school. In response to her children's experience, the mother of the family approached the bully's family to talk about what was happening. She invited the parents into a conversation, which ended in a plan: all the affected children and their parents would ride in a van together to get ice cream and learn about the other's culture and traditions.

The third story was that of a church prayer group that chose to support abuse victims in their church. However the organizer of the group (an RJ advocate) was apprehensive. Would this evangelical prayer group have the skills or the self awareness to sit with people and really support them. When the time came to do the work he was amazed at how much this prayer group knew about approaching things in a restorative way. The nonjudgmental support and care given was perfect. The prayer group members did not use RJ language but they understood RJ practices.

A common thread runs through each of these stories. The people in these situations would not call themselves RJ practitioners but in striving to treat each other well they lived out the principals of Restorative Justice. Restorative Justice happens even when its not called Restorative Justice.

by: Paul Kruse

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