Excerpts from LPF’s newsletter, Peace Notes, for use in classes, workshops, newsletters.
Dave, age 16, acting out his frustrations, broke a window of a car a few blocks from his home. He didn’t know Mrs. Weber, the elderly owner, and she had not known any teenagers personally for years. So after years of absorbing society’s negative stereotypes about teenagers, this experience made her acutely fearful.
The typical criminal justice system would have punished Dave and ignored Mrs. Weber. Instead, a restorative justice program enabled the parties to meet with a mediator and address the problem constructively. Their meeting helped Dave recognize for the first time that he had financially and emotionally hurt a real, live human being, and so he sincerely apologized. In turn, Mrs. Weber, whose fears had escalated and generalized to an entire generation, was able to gain a realistic perspective and feel compassion for this one individual.
They agreed that Dave would compensate her loss by mowing her lawn weekly until September and performing a few heavy yard chores. Each day while Dave worked, Mrs. Weber baked cookies which they shared when he finished. They actually came to appreciate each other.
“Restorative justice” is a refreshingly wise and humane alternative. It asks, “Who is hurt, and what do they need?” It moves from blaming to problem-solving and healing. It addresses victims’ needs directly and constructively by trying to make things right, to the extent possible. It also helps offenders accept responsibility and helps reduce their likelihood of re-offending. Overall, it offers the hope of restoring the brokenness of community.
Glen Anderson, an LPF Peace Partner active on the Decade for Peace, is a leader of the Olympia, Wash. Fellowship of Reconciliation.
I’ve seen the tendency to avoid conflict or confrontation in both church and work settings. For example, instead of coming to a person they disagree with, I’ve seen people confront the person in front of a whole committee. Yet if the roles were reversed, they would want to be approached privately rather than be “blind sided” in public.
A side effect of our tendency to avoid conflict is that we don’t get experience in dealing with problems directly. we don’t get practice hearing or saying “there’s a misunderstanding here, can we sit down and talk this through.” Waiting to speak until we feel angry and want to blame the other person becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Peacemaking isn’t only about international issues or youth gangs. It also means questioning our Lutheran culture of avoidance as we seek to build genuine community and discipleship. It’s about finding appropriate and creative ways to do what is right, loving, and needed in our day-to-day lives at home, at church, at work.
Mary Zentner, Chicago, Ill., coordinated the Inter-Unit Task Force on Nonviolence for the ELCA Division for Church in Society.
My wife Susanne and I were by the window of our Jerusalem house. Suddenly Israeli soldiers fired tear gas into several rooms of the elementary girls school across the street. The Intifada, the largely nonviolent Palestinian resistance, was several years old; still, we were shocked, for we could see no threat to the Israelis whatsoever.
I grabbed my camera and ran outside as children poured out of the school. The soldiers prodded them in various directions. Groups of children would chant, the Israelis would point their guns at them. I stayed 20 yards away taking pictures when the soldiers noticed me, jumped in their jeeps and drove over while the girls moved away; one group stopped when they were about 80 yards away, noticing that I was in a predicament now. They started chanting and making a ruckus even louder than before.
The soldiers hesitated in the middle of their decision about what to do with this foreigner – arrest me, let me go, take my camera away – and released me to turn their attention back to the girls. I got off the jeep and had walked only a few steps when the girls split off in 20 directions; the soldiers couldn’t possibly go after them all.
This experience is still an emotional one for me ten years later. It illustrates how even quite young children showed wonderful qualities of looking out for each other, an attitude they extended even to a stranger. They had learned this response growing up in a movement with a humane, nonviolent vision of what it means to work for social justice.
Mark Brown, is on the staff of the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs (LOGA) in Washington, DC.
My husband and I often discuss how we want to handle television and the media with our 2 ½ year old son, Luke. Here are several tips we’ve found helpful:
Instill the habit of watching specific programs, rather than just anything that happens to be on, and of turning the television off after a selected program is over.
Train your child to ask to watch television before turning it on, just like they have to ask if they can go out to play or to go to someone’s house.
Encourage children to talk out loud to the TV, to challenge and question what they see and hear. Jocelyn Hudson is active in LPF with her husband, Glen Gersmehl.
If someone came to your door and asked to spend 2 hours alone with your children, it’s not likely that you would say, “Swell, come on in!” Wouldn’t you ask, before you even let them in the door, “Who are you? Who sent you? What do you want to tell my child?” Elizabeth Thoman, Center for Media Literacy, the source of the above tips: www.medialit.org