*Note: The majority of this is an excerpt from a sermon I preached at Hillside Community Church in Morden, MB on the Sunday of July 31, 2011, though the end is different.
Restorative Justice was never in my plans, though what I have been learning is that what I plan for my life has almost no effect on what I end up doing anyway.
Not only was this not ever my plans, but there are times when I feel like I have no right to be doing this work, talking about these things. The mess that crime creates in the lives of those affected is spectacular in its complexity. The fears that are felt, the hurts that need healing and the damages done are all interconnected in a web whose intensity and elusiveness sometimes stops me up short. That is to say nothing of the economic, social and political aspects of crime. Each feeds off of each other and there is no way to work on one without working on them all. And all this before the quagmire that is the court and corrections systems.
When I hear about the horrible things done by one human to another sometimes all I want to do is weep.
Maybe, at times, that is all you can do.
There is so much involved in crime that often people are stunned into silence. We have no idea where to begin so we don't even try. What do you say to the mother of a murdered child? How someone who has been raped feel safe ever again? What should be done with the offender? Prison, something worse? Something else? What about the families and friends of those involved How can they be supported? What about the community?
As many questions as I have floating around in my head throughout my work there is one thing I am convinced of. For me, one thing is clear in the midst of all this grey. We must continue to talk. Crime, hurt, pain, these things are only perpetuated by unhealthy silence.
I make the distinction of unhealthy silence because there is a time for silence. Sometimes the most profound thing is to say nothing at all. In fact many people talk when they need to learn just to listen or to just be silent with someone. Knowing the difference can be tricky, and is something that comes from great effort and practice.
A large struggle of mine as I work I do is how am I supposed to show love for both those who hurt and those who do the hurting?
Right now I find myself in a position to be talking with both victims of crime, and those perpetrating the acts.
I can tell you from past experiences that when working with offenders it is far easier to not know their victims. It is easier to not have those faces ringing in your mind as you talk to that person.
The same is true for those hurt by crime. It is easier to be able to rage with them, to cry with them and to question what happened when you don't know the offender, when you've never seen that person laugh or cry or rage themselves.
How are we supposed to hold these two people up at the same time? How are we supposed to love them both?
Someone I know said that she got involved with talking to prisoners because she wanted to see if there was a line. A line where she could not longer forgive what that person had done. A line where a person has lost their right to humanity. She didn't find it.
I firmly believe God has no line. The grace God has gifted us is unearned, yet we receive it anyway. All of us. There is no person beyond God's grace. And if God has no line, can we? Why do we give ourselves that luxury of labelling criminals other? Is it an attempt to distance ourselves from them?
This is not to condone any of the terrible actions one does, but it is also not to fully condemn. It is an attempt to try and understand how we can possibly have a world where no one is unnecessarily hurting others.