A Christian Vision of Reconciliation

by Facilitator on November 30, 2009

Frank Rogers gave a presentation on reconciliation at the Zimbabwe workshop.  Here are some of the points he made:

A Christian Vision of Reconciliation

1)  God yearns for the reconciliation of ALL persons. (Remember the parable of the lost sheep; the shepherd leaves the 99 to search for one who is lost.)

2) No one is beyond redemption. Even the most vicious perpetrator bears some humanity.

3) Christian reconciliation is rooted in the practice of loving one’s enemies and having compassion for those who persecute us (see Matthew 5).

Elements of True Reconciliation

1. Recognition—An admission of one’s wrong-doing

“I confess that I committed this offense.”

2. Remorse—Sorrow for the pain one caused in another

“I see your pain and I am sorry.”

3. Restitution—Attempts to repair the damaged caused

“I will try to make it right, even if only symbolically.”

4. Restraint—Agreeing to conditions that prevent further violation

“I will respect appropriate boundaries.”

5. Restoration—A commitment to personal healing

“I will do what it takes to heal from the condition that caused my               behavior.”

6. Regeneration—A commitment to social healing through education, solidarity and justice

“I will play my role in ridding our world of this form of offense.”

A Process of Restorative Justice

1) Provide safe and inclusive space. For the honesty and vulnerability necessary for restorative justice to work, a safe and inclusive space needs to be created for the victims and perpetrators. The victims must feel like they will be respected and heard; and the perpetrators must feel that they will not be harmed or degraded. A compassionate and respectful mediator is necessary to facilitate the process. The space needs to be inclusive; all of the effected parties must be present during the process.

2) The victim’s storytelling. The victim needs the opportunity to tell the entire story of their experience. Healing begins when the victim is allowed to share their experience and feel that it is being listened to. The victim’s story should include what their life was like before the violence, the specifics of the violence done to them, and what their life has been like since the violence they endured. The story should not be rushed, challenged, or minimized. The perpetrator especially needs to listen fully and empathetically to the victim’s story. It is essential that the victim feel like they have been heard. This can be facilitated when the perpetrator shares back to the victim what they heard in the victim’s story about how the victim felt.

3) The perpetrator’s confession and story. After the victim has shared their story, the perpetrator must express some remorse to the victim. The perpetrator must not only understand the effects of their actions on the victim, the perpetrator must also take responsibility that they indeed committed this violence and express an apology to the victim. The words ‘I am sorry’ are uniquely powerful in the reconciliation process. In addition to sharing remorse, the perpetrator can share the circumstances of their life that led to the violence being committed. This is not done to justify the violence but to better understand why it happened and what will be necessary to prevent further violence.

4) Reparations. Once the victim and the perpetrator have been heard in ways that ring true to each of them, appropriate reparations must be agreed upon. These are the actions that the perpetrator will do to repair the damage caused by their violence. The reparations may include returning stolen goods or rebuilding destroyed property. When literal reparations are not possible (say in the example of a death or destroyed limb), the reparations need to be symbolic. The community can be helpful in deciding upon appropriate reparations for this particular act of violence. The reparations must be satisfying to the victim but should not be dehumanizing or oppressive to the perpetrator.

5) Rehabilitation. Apart from reparations, the perpetrator must heal from the conditions that caused the violence in the first place. This might include recovery from drug or alcohol abuse or committing to no longer be affiliated with a troublesome group of people. This rehabilitation must be done with the purpose of restoring the perpetrator to their full humanity. The community can play a large role in supporting the perpetrator in this process.

6) Ritual. Rituals are very important in completing a process of healing and reconciliation. The community should design rituals that symbolically express the perpetrator’s remorse and reinstitution into the community, the perpetrator’s commitment to a process of healing and rehabilitation, the reconciliation between the perpetrator and the victim, and the community’s celebration of the healing, forgiveness, and reunion that has occurred.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob Scott December 1, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Mark,
I recently discovered your work in Zimbabwe via an online news article. I must say that I was extremely encouraged to hear what you are doing and interested in learning more.

This year in the US we published an amazing story about the people of The Community of Reconciliation who set out in 1982 to bring healing to Zimbabwe. Sadly, 16 of my friends were killed on the project on Thanksgiving 1987. The book is called “Saving Zimbabwe” if you are interested in the story. (www.savingzimbabwe.com) The book is being released by Random House in South Africa early next year.

I hope we can meet in person at some point as I’d like to learn more about whats on your heart.

Bob Scott
Director
Compassionate Justice Intl.

Dr Brennan Nelson December 1, 2009 at 9:16 pm

I wish this true in New Zealand!

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