WN: Tom Yoder Neufeld presented this to the Mennonite Central Committee Canada Restorative Justice Network in Winnipeg in 2003. It well deserves a current readership. The second footnote below was a reader compiled by me for MCCC.
I have been asked to reflect on Restorative Justice in relation both to ways the Bible supports, undergirds, and nourishes the roots and practices of Restorative Justice, and also ways in which the Bible might subject what has come to be called Restorative Justice to critique and correction.
Twenty some years ago there was a clear need to lay a foundation, theological and biblical, for the emerging paradigm and practice of Restorative Justice, not least because the case still needed to be made. Now the case has been made. Today VORP is everywhere, mediation services, and prison ministries are flourishing1 [E.g., Network for Conflict Resolution, affiliated with Conrad Grebel University College.]. Today the case is being made in wider society, but from a vantage point of strength, experience, and success. This is to be celebrated. It is a witness to courageous and often self-sacrificial engagement in the messy events of the wider society. It is one of the most exciting stories of mission in the past three decades.
Whereas twenty or even thirty years ago there was a need to find biblical warrant or permission for such engagement2 [‘crime is a peace issue’: Readings on Issues in the Criminal Justice System (compiled and edited by Mennonite Central Committee Canada Information Services, 1980).], it might now be time to reorient ourselves again, to remind ourselves of the biblical taproot of Restorative Justice. After all, Restorative Justice has become a concept, a paradigm, an identifiable set of principles and practices which can be argued for in the public arena, indeed, which have garnered the adherence of a diverse community of practitioners far greater than the early pioneers could have imagined. The experience has, I suspect, sometimes outpaced biblical reflection and testing.
Please click on: ‘In the Middle’