Restorative Justice Week began in 1975 in England. Known then as Prisoner's Sunday, its purpose was to remind the public of the incarcerated men and women in that country. The day of remembrance was subsequently adopted in Canada and several other Commonwealth nations. The commemoration extended to a week in 1995, and a year later was renamed Restorative Justice Week to reflect growing concern for victims and communities, as well as prisoners. It is now observed around the world during the third week of November.
For several years the Centre prepared a series of Bible studies for Prison Fellowship national affiliates to use during Restorative Justice Week. Each includes five brief lessons and questions for reflection. They are useful for individual study as well as group discussion.
Steps to Reconciliation
While most generally do not desire or seek it, conflict occurs between people. Some conflicts may arise more or less unintentionally, yet many stem from willful wrongdoing. Crime is one particular kind of wrongdoing. Though it involves breaking a law, crime fundamentally consists of conflict between people, resulting in material or nonmaterial harm. Crime disrupts and damages people and relationships. Can the conflict which is crime be resolved? Can the harm experienced by individuals and in relationships be redressed? What does it mean to resolve conflict between people in cases of wrongdoing and crime?
A Case Study in Peacemaking
In a world wracked with much conflict, from the relatively minor to the quite extreme, peacemaking is vital. For followers of Jesus, peacemaking rises to the level of a calling. God's kingdom is a place of shalom. Jesus built on this when he said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." We cannot look away from conflict as if it does not exist or does not concern us. Faithfulness to Jesus involves living and seeking peace in a world so often veering into conflict. For true and effective peacemaking, several key components must come together. Through reflection on Paul's letter to Philemon in the New Testament, as well as exploration of particular topics and questions for personal consideration or group discussion, we will examine these components.
Building Peace, Building Right Relationships
An understanding of the Biblical conceptions of peace and justice offer an ideal against which to measure our own behaviour and relationships. Such an understanding can transform our behaviour in everyday situations of conflict, in how we work with those affected by crime, and in advocating for a just and effective justice system. Therefore, this study will explore what it means to be a peacemaker, particularly in the context of crime and injustice.
What Is Restorative Justice?
In its fullest and best sense, restorative justice is both a way of seeing crime correctly and a way of responding to crime appropriately. In the studies which follow, we will have opportunity to explore carefully the meaning and practice of restorative justice. In faith, hope, and love, may we ask God for grace to grow so that at the end of the week, and beyond, we can do better what God requires of us – to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him.
Where Love and Justice Meet
Very often justice and love are understood as distinct and even opposing values and aims. On the one hand, justice is commonly depicted as harsh judgment, as punishment without mercy.On the other hand, love is perceived as sentimentality where wrong-doing is simply overlooked without consequence. The Bible offers a different view of justice and love. Both are integral parts of God's character. God is a righteous judge (Psalm 7:7; 2 Timothy 4:8) .At the same time, God is love (1 John 4:8). How then does the Bible define justice and love? What does it mean that justice and love both characterize God? What do justice and love mean for us? Where do they meet in our world?