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Spring/Summer 2011




Peace grounded in restorative justice

Lynn Roth

I am writing this on the day (July 14, 2011) that I learned of the untimely death of 45-year-old Dekha Abrahim Abdi of Kenya. She had been a colleague of CJP faculty and staff for a number of years and had been at our Summer Peacebuilding Institute for three separate years. She was a leader on the road to peaceful communities in East Africa. As I contemplated her significant impact in her tooshort life and felt deep sadness for her family, I was reminded anew that none of us can know what day will be our last and can only hope that we have lived each day as fully as possible, following our respective callings. This is, as I understand it, how Dekha lived her life. As examples of following one’s passions, the people featured in this issue of Peacebuilder have chosen to challenge the prevailing paradigm of “administering justice” whereby all perceived wrongs are addressed through retributively hurtful measures. Much evidence exists that draconian punishments – whether administered to children in families, to students acting out in schools, to people who commit crimes in wider society, or even to the perpetrators of genocide – do not yield the desired result of stable families, well-educated young people, offenders who do not lapse back into criminal behavior, or nations or ethnic groups that cease fighting with each other. Here at CJP, we believe that the principles and practices of “restorative justice” offer much promise in building the kind of world that we would all like to live in. As restorative justice pioneer Howard Zehr wrote in the new book he co-authored with Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, What Will Happen to Me?: “In a culture that puts so much emphasis on individual rights and personal autonomy, restorative justice reminds us of what most of our cultural and religious traditions emphasize: we are interconnected. Our behavior affects other people, and we are responsible for the consequences. Whether we like it or not, we are in this world together. The harm of one is the harm of all, and the good of one is the good of all.” Please join me in praying for the family of Dekha, as well as for those who are caught in systems of injustice, and for those who are trying to implement restorative justice in its various forms everywhere.

Lynn Roth Executive Director

Spring/Summer 2011


PEACEBUILDER is a biannual supplement of Crossroads, a periodical published six times a year by Eastern Mennonite University, with the collaboration of the Development Office: Kirk L. Shisler, vice president for advancement; Phil Helmuth, executive director of development; Phoebe Kilby, CJP associate director of development. Loren E. Swartzendruber President Fred Kniss Provost Lynn Roth CJP Executive Director Bonnie Price Lofton Editor/Writer


Restorative justice revisits punishment ..............................................................................................2

‘What will happen to me?’ speaks to children of prisoners ..............................................................................................5

Harsh discipline may contribute to youth suicide ..............................................................................................6

Jon Styer Designer/Photographer Barry Hart Valerie Helbert Maria Hoover Janice Jenner Janelle Myers-Benner Lynn Roth Carl Stauffer CJP Leadership Team Members For more information or address changes, contact: Center for Justice and Peacebuilding Eastern Mennonite University 1200 Park Road Harrisonburg, VA 22802 (540) 432-4000 Contents ©2011 Eastern Mennonite University. Cover photo Restorative justice expert Howard Zehr with Jenn Dorsch, MA '10, in a photo shoot of Alanis Graham. At the invitation of Dorsch, Zehr did photo-portraits of Alanis and other "Secret Sisters." The girls loved the photos, which became catalysts for conversation and short narratives about themselves. More on page 5.

Addressing conflict and harm in schools

2 5 6

.......................................................................................... 8

The restoration of James Madison University ............................................................................................12

Restorative councils help Pakistani police ............................................................................................16

Carl Stauffer brings African perspective to RJ classes

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The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) is rooted in the Mennonite peace tradition of Christianity. CJP prepares and supports individuals and institutions of diverse religious and philosophical backgrounds in the creation of a just and peaceful world. CJP is based at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and offers a masters-level degree and certificate, as well as non-degree training through its Summer Peacebuilding Institute and its Practice and Training Institute. The latter also offers expert consultancy. Donations to CJP are tax-deductible and support the program, the university that houses it, scholarships for peace and justice students, and other essentials. Visit for more information.

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RESTORATIVE JUSTICE REVISITS PUNISHMENT By Brian Gumm justice, n. Etymology: < Old French justise, -ice (jostise) uprightness, equity, vindication of right, administration of law, jurisdiction, court of justice, infliction of punishment, gallows, judge, etc. --Oxford English Dictionary online The customary way of thinking of justice – usually tied to determining what kind of punishment is appropriate for a particular wrongdoing – is not the way that justice is viewed at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. At CJP, many faculty, staff and students are advocates for “restorative justice.” In this essay, Brian Gumm explains the roots of restorative justice. Gumm is a licensed minister in the Church of the Brethren, who is in his final year of earning two master’s degrees at EMU: an MA in conflict transformation and a master’s of divinity. This paper is excerpted from a talk Gumm gave to the Student Learning and Global Justice Conference in the Washington D.C. area on April 8, 2011.


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Professor Barry Hart (standing in a CJP class) co-authored "Integrating Principles and Practices of Customary Law, Conflict Transformation, and Restorative Justice in Somaliland" in the December 2010 issue of Africa Peace and Conflict Journal.

From humble origins

Restorative justice is a values- and principles-based framework that attempts to address incidents of wrongdoing by asking three questions: (1) Who has been hurt? (2) What are their needs? and (3) Whose obligations are these?1 In its early days in the 1970s and ‘80s, before it was even called “restorative justice,” the field’s practitioners saw the Western criminal justice system as implicitly asking a very different set of questions when addressing wrongdoing: (1) What laws have been broken? (2) Who did it? and (3) What do they deserve?2 When contrasting these two sets of questions, it’s quickly seen that the starting points for restorative justice and the criminal justice system are fundamentally different. One assumes a powerful system where the other assumes relationship. One focuses on an individual, the other, a community. Finally, one prescribes punishment where the other seeks restoration. But these are boring, abstract ways to talk about restorative justice, so let me tell you a story. It’s a story first told to me by the “grandfather” of the restorative justice movement, my mentor, colleague, and 1 Howard Zehr. The Little Book of Restorative Justice, Little Books of Justice & Peacebuilding. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2002, 21. 2 Ibid.

PHOTO by Jon Styer

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE friend, Dr. Howard Zehr. I lovingly call this the “creation story” of restorative justice.3 One night in in the spring of 1974, in a small town in central Ontario, two teenage boys got drunk and went on a vandalism spree throughout the town. The two 18-year-old boys smashed windows, damaged vehicles, defaced church signs, and even pulled a boat out of a driveway and into the middle of the street before going back home and passing out. They awoke the next morning to police knocking on their door. The boys were charged with vandalism of 22 properties. Mark Yantzi, who had begun working with the local probation office as a Mennonite Central Committee volunteer, and David Worth, another MCC volunteer involved with the justice system, ended up on the case. One of them suggested that it “would be neat” to have the offenders in this case meet the victims of their vandalism face to face instead of simply sending them both off to jail, to which the other replied “why not?”4 Along with their pre-sentence report to the judge in the case, the two Mennonite probation workers suggested their wild idea. Much to everyone’s surprise, the judge accepted their suggestion. So the two Mennonite probation workers took the two young men around Elmira, Ontario, knocking on doors, meeting their victims face to face, and apologizing. Within three months the men paid back all their victims. This experience radically reoriented the life of one of the boys, Russell Kelly, who had lost both of his parents and was struggling with substance abuse issues before this. He eventually entered college to study law and security and became a volunteer mediator with Community Justice Initiatives in Kitchener, Ontario.5 Let’s explore our three restorative justice questions using this story. First: Who has been hurt? The obvious answer is the 22 people or families whose properties were vandalized. But wait a minute, we also heard that one of these boys, Russell, had lost both of his parents before he was even 18 years old, and was coping with drugs and alcohol. Does this not sound like someone who is hurting? So any justice process that is restorative will quickly show how easily lines are blurred when you shift from blame in an isolated incident to identifying pain and brokenness in a community that has experienced wrongdoing. Once we have an idea who has been hurt in a situation, we ask: What are their needs? The people whose properties were vandalized had their sense of safety and security shattered, as were their plate glass windows from rocks thrown by the boys. These people needed to feel safe again in their own homes and neighborhoods. And what of the boys? We know from Russell’s experience of losing his parents that he likely needed the experience of a family which he’d since lost, the need to feel connected and supported. Lastly, we’ll ask: Whose obligations are these? As members of the community, the boys had an obligation to help restore their victims’ 3 This story has been told by Howard Zehr countless times and has been recorded in a handful of restorative justice books. I’m drawing on the account from Gary Nyp. Pioneers of Peace: The History of Community Justice Initiatives in the Waterloo Region, 1974-2004. Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press, 2004, 13-15. 4 Ibid., 15. 5 Barb Toews, The Little Book of Restorative Justice for People in Prison, Little Books of Justice & Peacebuilding. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2006, 9.

sense of security and safety, but the victims and the wider community hopefully feels – even in the midst of their distress at the violation – a sense that these boys are one of their own and might be successfully brought back into relationship through the justice process. This last bit on community obligations is tricky business, as we are so conditioned to think of justice as a one-way street. But at the same time you can’t command someone to suddenly begin thinking and acting restoratively in this way.

Punitive “justice”

Through his survey of literature covering post-Enlightenment legal traditions and prison systems, David Cayley helps us see that the penitentiary system that developed in 18th and 19th century America had its roots in early modern European monastic orders that practiced particularly harsh forms of punishment, including solitary confinement and physical mutilation.6 But as even the word “penitentiary” shows us, it goes back further than that. What made such an idea conceivable in the first place? Cayley makes the claim that “the idea that crime demands prosecution and punishment seems no more than common sense to us today. But it cannot be found in Western society before the 12th century, when modern conceptions of law first made their appearance.”7 In early European society, law was “embedded in social life rather than embodied in special legal institutions.”8 If this sounds familiar, it should. Pre-modern practices of law and justice were inherently social. This sociality began to shift in Europe, however, in the 11th and 12th centuries when the Roman church began to assert itself over-against ruling authorities, resulting in a long and conflictual, often violent, social-economic-political battle. Results of this power struggle produced among other things: the Inquisition in the 15th century; the Protestant Reformation in the 16th; and the so-called “Wars of Religion”9 in 17th century Europe. These helped give birth to the Enlightenment intellectual project and its political progeny, the powerful Western systems we inhabit today: the modern nation-state and democratic capitalism. Mixed up in all of this was the developing idea that crime is primarily an individual matter rather than social, and therefore the solution is also individual, namely punishment. What I’ve just tried to do is to take a quick sprint through Western history from the medieval period into the early modern period in hopes that it can become at least conceivable that the whole cluster of thoughts and practices encapsulated in a phrase like “crime and punishment” or a word like “penitentiary” are not givens, but are rather products of messy history in which the church is very much enmeshed. 6 David Cayley. The Expanding Prison : The Crisis in Crime and Punishment and the Search for Alternatives. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1998, 138. 7 Ibid., 123. 8 Ibid., 126, emphasis mine. 9 9 Cf. William T. Cavanaugh. The Myth of Religious Violence : Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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The Anabaptist angle

Before I start explaining what Anabaptism is, I want to recall that the two probation officers who had the crazy of idea of making the two boys apologize to the victims of their vandalization were Mennonites. I think it’s no accident that these two Mennonite men would conceive of such a thing in this strange new work in which they found themselves, and that it didn’t just come out of the clear blue sky. Rather, this idea was the fruit of a peculiar strand of the Christian tradition. The Anabaptist tradition, which eventually formed into groups including the Mennonites, began in 16th century Germany, roughly contemporary with the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation. While there is no single “myth of origin” for the Anabaptist movement,10 one of the more straightforward and observable dimensions was their dawning conviction – based on a deep engagement with the Bible – that the rite of baptism was to be a person’s own conviction discerned in the fellowship of believers. In other words, they became convinced and practiced adult baptism, which in that generation meant re-baptism, the source of the word “Anabaptism.” In Reformation-era Europe – the highly volatile climate described earlier – such a move as adult baptism was political from the word “go.” For both Catholic and Lutheran churches in Germany, hand in glove with provincial governments, the practice of infant baptism served not only a spiritual function but a civic one as well, namely being registered as a citizen to your territory and, if you were an able-bodied man, being subject to inscription into your prince’s wars. Simply put, the Anabaptists were not only heretics but treasonous heretics at that, which earned them death by drowning, burning, hanging, and my favorite: being put in a cage and hung from a church steeple. My point is to underscore the importance of the martyr tradition in Anabaptism, especially among Mennonites even today, nearly 500 years later.11 Early Anabaptist conflict within the fellowship was handled with deference to Jesus’ own instruction in Matthew’s gospel, namely Matthew 18:15-18, which for generations Anabaptists would call the “Rule of Christ.”12 With the restorative justice creation story in view, let me offer you the first few sentences of the Rule of Christ: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses’” (NIV). Is it too much of a stretch to suggest that this verse, so important to early Anabaptist experience, could have somehow 10 Cf. Thomas Heilke. “Theological and Secular Meta-Narratives of Politics: Anabaptist Origins Revisited (Again).” Modern Theology 13, no. 2 (1997): 227-52. 11 Cf. Thieleman Van Bragt. Martyrs Mirror: The Story of Seventeen Centuries of Christian Martyrdom from the Time of Christ to A.D. 1660. 2nd reprint ed. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2001; and Tongue Screws and Testimonies: Poems, Stories, and Essays Inspired by the Martyrs Mirror. Edited by Kirsten Eve Beachy. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2010. 12 Ervin A. Schlabach. “Rule of Christ among the Early Swiss Anabaptists.” Mennonite Quarterly Review 52, no. 3 (1978): 265.


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Brian Gumm, author and candidate for two master's at EMU

helped spark the imaginations of the two Mennonite probation workers on another continent a few hundred years later?

Circling the globe

Let me make a few things clear as to what I am not trying to say in all that’s preceded. I am not trying to colonize restorative justice by claiming that it’s solely a “Mennonite thing.” Doing so would be ignorant and irresponsible considering the directions that the field has taken since the 1970s. Another thing I am not trying to say is that the communal/ relational attitudes inherent to restorative justice are necessarily new. In fact, if anything, I hope I have shown through my glimpses into history that they’re actually quite old. When my mentor, Howard Zehr, tells this creation story and his later work in articulating the field, he’s quick to point out that non-Western people who come to know restorative justice often say quite matter-of-factly, “Well, of course! That’s how we’ve handled wrongdoing all along!” or “That’s how our elders handled these situations!” Indeed, a communal awareness as it relates to handling wrongdoing is a very, very old impulse, and that it’s so surprising to Westerners only underscores how our societal imagination has been captivated by the habits of individualism. In short, restorative justice is a “return to the teachings” approach for understanding and repairing harm in communities and societies. The movement has swept the globe, with unique and culturally sensitive applications being developed for criminal offenses, societies transitioning out of violent conflict, disciplinary matters in educational settings, and the lingering effects of historical harms, such as slavery.  PHOTO by Lindsey Kolb


‘What Will Happen To Me?’

Employed at Girls Inc. in Hagerstown, Maryland, Jenn Dorsch, MA ’10, (center) has been using What Will Happen to Me? to spark conversation within Secret Sisters, a weekly meeting of girls dealing with a family member’s incarceration. Alanis Graham (left) has faced her father being in and out of prison for years. Secret Sisters has given Alanis “the tools she needs to deal with any big emotional things that come along,” says her mother Beth, who articulates much gratitude for the support extended to her and Alanis. (Howard Zehr is in the background.)

Co-authors Howard Zehr and Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz are also frequent co-teachers of restorative justice topics at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.

In addition to the children of prisoners profiled in What Will Happen to Me?, the same question could be asked of many others touched upon in this edition of Peacebuilder: child soldiers and ex-combatants around the world; confused teens harmed by draconian school policies; survivors of trauma; overburdened officials in criminal justice, educational, and other systems mandated to exercise social control; and all others suffering under the prevailing philosophy of punishment and exclusion, rather than restoration and community building. The children of prisoners, however, have been a hugely overlooked group until recently. As the book cover notes, “Every night, approximately 3 million children go to bed with a parent in prison or in jail.” This means that almost every schoolteacher in America is likely to have at least one child in class who fits this description. What Will Happen to Me? (Good Books, 2011, $14.95) contains poignant photos by Howard Zehr of 30 children whose parents are incarcerated, along with the children’s thoughts, plus some reflections by their caregivers. Co-author Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz has compiled practical suggestions on such topics as “staying in touch,” “adjusting to a parent’s return,” and “self-care for family caregivers.” One of the main objectives of What Will Happen to Me? is to alleviate the sense of shame and isolation felt by the children of prisoners and to support their resiliency. The book also contains a valuable “bill of rights” for the well-being of these children.

PHOTO by Jon Styer (above) and courtesy of Howard Zehr (below)

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Youth suicide One cost of harsh punishment The need for new approaches to school discipline came to the attention of tens of thousands in the nation’s capital when The Washington Post ran the headline “Fairfax school disciplinary policies scrutinized after apparent suicide.” It was January 22, 2011, and the opening paragraphs of the newspaper article read: The apparent suicide of a 15-year-old high school football player in Fairfax County has sparked concern about the school district’s disciplinary policies, which critics say are overly punitive and often debilitating for students. The concerns come as students at W.T. Woodson High School mourn the loss of Nick Stuban, a former sophomore running back on the junior varsity team. Football players wore their homecoming jerseys in Nick Stuban memory of the well-liked teen Friday, and many other students wore black. Nick’s death followed a disciplinary action that some parents and school activists considered unnecessarily harsh. A school spokesman defended the district’s policies as appropriate and in line with state law. Nick had been suspended two months previously for buying a legal drug at school called JWH -018, often called synthetic marijuana. Nick tried the drug at home, but the drug-seller, another student, apparently pointed him out to school officials. Nick was banned from Woodson and thus cut off from his social circle, including the Boy Scout group to which he belonged. He eventually was permitted to enroll in another school, but on what would have been his sixth day there, January 20, he killed himself at his home.  Nick’s father, Steve Stuban, says the punishment contributed to his son’s death in that it robbed him of his support system, his identity and his friends, which caused him to sink into a deep depression. The Post reported that in 2009 another Fairfax County high school football player, 17-year-old Josh Anderson, committed suicide as he awaited a hearing on a second marijuana offense. On March 10, 2011, the Post ran a story about a 13-year-old girl undergoing a disciplinary process which had kept her out of her regular middle school for nearly two months. Her offense? Having acne medication in her school locker.

School to prison

In newspaper blogs in Texas this past year, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson is widely quoted as having said: “More than 80 percent of adult prison inmates are school dropouts. Charging kids with criminal offenses for low-level 6

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behavioral issues exacerbates the problem.” Whether Judge Jefferson claims these words or not, the observation is correct. Annette Fuentes, author of Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse (Verso, 2011), wrote: “In California alone, there were more than 700,000 out-of-school suspensions in the last school year. And Texas had more than half a million. “Each time a student is excluded from the classroom, it puts his or her education in suspension,” she wrote. “Suspensions lead to the school-to-prison pipeline. The harsh discipline of zero-tolerance policies puts the most vulnerable kids, disproportionately African-American and Latino students, at greatest risk of dropping out of school. And from there, excluded from education and with limited prospects, they are at greater risk of falling into jail.” “Zero tolerance” refers to the way many school districts moved to absolute penalties and increased punishments for violations of weapon, drug and some other policies. Zero tolerance accelerated following the gun-killings of 13 in Columbine High School (Colorado) by two students in April 1999.

Turning the tide

Fairfax County Public Schools comprise the 11th largest system in the United States and are often a bellwether for the nation in education, given the system’s relatively wealthy tax base and prime location in the shadow of the nation’s capital. A dozen or so restorative justice practitioners in northern Virginia, some of them trained at CJP, are trying to turn the tide in Fairfax County schools toward more humane, effective, and lasting results. CJP-linked practitioners include Vickie Shoap, the first “restorative practice specialist” hired by the Fairfax school system (beginning July 2011); Joan G. Packer, a district-court certified mediator formerly employed as the “conflict resolution specialist” by Fairfax schools; Packer’s successor Kristen Woodward (Packer retired in 2010 after 32 years of service to the schools); David Deal, vice chair of the Restorative Justice Project under Northern Virginia Mediation Service; and Natalie Thompson, who also works with the Mediation Service. Packer supervised Dan Buescher, MA ’10, for an internship in the spring of 2010 doing restorative presentations, trainings and interventions within the Fairfax school system. “In 2002, I graduated from Woodson High School” – Nick Stuban’s school – “so this felt like coming home to me,” said Buescher. One of the highlights of his one-semester internship, Buescher said, was participating in a two-day workshop on restorative practices attended by some of the administrators of Westfield High School (the largest in the state) and staff from five other schools. Starting with the enthusiastic backing of Westfield vice principal Dave Jagels, Deal said there has been a gradual increase in referrals to facilitators trained in restorative practices. “A single case was handled at the end of the 2007-2008 school year,” he wrote on his website, The next year, there were seven cases handled. Then the third year, 2009-10, 34 cases, with other schools joining Westfield in making referrals. This grew to 80 cases in 2010-11. Increasing interest in applying restorative practices to schools was reflected in the third biannual National Conference on Restorative Justice in June 2011, where 18 percent of the sessions (13 PHOTO courtesy of Nick's parents, Sandy and Steve Stuban


Chris Peak (center), MA '11, with teachers Tosha Haynes and Daniel Moore at Christ Presbyterian School in Nashville, Tennesse

out of 71) pertained to restorative justice in school settings. In one of the sessions, Barbara McClung of the Oakland (Calif.) Unified School District explained: “The paradigm shift from zero tolerance to restorative discipline helped to successfully reduce fights and defiance, while lowering suspension rates by more than 80 percent.”

Nashville revisited

In an odd way, it was someone from the Oakland, California, school district that caused Chris Peak, MA ’11, of Nashville, Tennessee, to enroll in the master’s program at CJP. On an airplane several years ago, Peak happened to sit next to attorney Sujatha Baliga, an alumnus of EMU’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute and a key player in the shift to restorative discipline in Oakland’s schools. As the two chatted, she handed him a book by restorative justice pioneer Howard Zehr and told him about Zehr’s place of employment, CJP. Jumping forward, Peak is now enrolled as a full-time master’s student at CJP. For his required practicum, Peak arranged to return to the conservative, private Presbyterian school from which he had graduated in 2003. He recalls that he spent much of his early teen years in trouble at that school – he now understands that he was angry over his parents’ divorce, but the anger came out in unhealthy ways. “I took on the identity of rebel and misfit,” he says. Peak had a simple goal in returning to his old school: To show them how they could align their values – their professed love and

concern for each child – with restorative practices, rather than retributive ones, which he felt hurt him years ago and no doubt many other young students before and since. “They gave me 90 minutes for a teacher in-service, but they stayed for two hours. They didn’t want the session to stop. ‘This is what Jesus wants us to do,’ they declared.” Unexpectedly, Peak found himself addressing gaps in the wider culture of the school. “I found the teachers didn’t feel cared for by the system, and the administrators didn’t feel cared for either, especially not by the church above them. So it wasn’t surprising that the students didn’t perceive themselves to be in a caring atmosphere.” Centering himself on the Christian values that all subscribed to, Peak led components of the school and nearby church to take the time to sit in facilitated circles and to open their hearts and minds to each other. “There had been no time set aside to simply communicate – local ownership of anything is time consuming,” he said. In just a couple of months, everyone was noticing positive changes in behavior and relationships. Says Peak: “They were developing a culture of care.”  — BPL For further reading: The Little Book of Restorative Discipline for Schools (2005) by Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz and Judy H. Mullet // Discipline That Restores (2008) by Ron and Roxanne Classen // "School-Based Restorative Justice: Ten Lessons Learned," a paper by David T. Deal posted at

PHOTO courtesy of Chris Peak

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Addressing conflict and harm in schools Educating for peacebuilding

As school districts across North America – indeed perhaps across the world – struggle with how to enable students to study productively in safe, respectful school environments, more school personnel are checking into restorative justice and asking themselves whether the practices of “RJ” could be applied in their environments. Certain school districts in Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California and Colorado are among those leading the way in the United States in shifting to a restorative, community-based approach to handling conflicts within school systems. One of the first “how to” books published in the United States was The Little Book of Restorative Discipline for Schools (Good Books, 2005), written by Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, director of Mennonite Central Committee’s Office on Crime and Justice (and a frequent adjunct instructor at EMU), and EMU psychology professor Judy H. Mullet. The book was edited by EMU restorative justice professor Howard Zehr. More recently, Catherine Bargen (MA ’08) has produced a fascinating, transparently honest summary of the steps taken and the lessons learned when she and other RJ experts worked to permeate the principles and practices of RJ through one of the largest school districts in Canada, School District #35 in Langley, British Columbia. Her book is titled Educating for Peacebuilding – Implementing restorative justice principles and practices in a school system (Fraser Region Community Justice Initiatives, 2010). Here are 30 excerpts from the book. It is available for purchase from Fraser Region Community Justice Initiatives (CJI), a non-profit that has grown from seeds planted by the Langley Mennonite Fellowship Church in the 1980s. CJI works in all types of communities in British Columbia, including those within the criminal justice system. For more information, visit


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 Give careful thought to the terms you use and be intentional in how you use them…. We decided upon “Restorative Action” [RA] after considering several alternatives. “Restorative Justice” seemed too closely associated with the criminal justice system. “Restorative Discipline,” while used by many respected colleagues, struck us as emphasizing wrong-doing and being associated with top-down decision-making… “Restorative Measures” sounded too legal. However, one of these terms may work for you. Just be sure to think through the message that you want to send. (p. 52)  We avoid the terms “victim, offender,” or “bully,” as we don’t want to label students. Instead we say “kids,” or “students involved,” or “the guy that made the threat,” or simply “Ashley.” (p. 52)  To make any progress, identify the senior administrators in the schools (principals and vice-principals) and at the school-district level who are interested in implementation. Not just “sounds like a neat idea” interested, but “I get this and I will do what it takes to get this into the school” interested. (p. 32)  If you are committed to a certain school or district, start pitching the idea to school trustees, parents, and teachers until you have a critical mass of pressure. (p. 32)  Seek out the teachers, students, and parents who are already interested and do not need much convincing. You will know who they are because they often respond to your pitch for restorative justice with comments such as: “This is what I already do intuitively! This makes so much sense! This should have been happening when I was a student!” …. These champions will form your core group of supporters and help your outreach work later. (p. 33)  A model that has emerged and seems to work well involves designating one “point person” for each school. Anyone in the school community who is interested in any aspect of RA — including those who want to refer a situation — can approach this point person for assistance… For a point person to be effective, ongoing efforts must be made to ensure that he/ she is known, accessible, and up-to-date on the workings of the RA team. (p. 38)  Even when schools are enthusiastic, they often experience initial difficulties and resistance to spending the necessary amount of time, energy, and resources on implementing RA. We try to frame it as “front-end loading” — an initial input of intense energy and focus, coupled with the hope that an RA team in the school will be a positive presence for change and lighten the load for everyone over time. See if you can find ways that make the initial training easier to support and understand for all involved. For example, students have given us feedback that it is useful for them to have a letter to show their teachers which explains the program and explains their absence from class in more depth. (p. 57)  [From CJI’s 2003 annual report] Our team is realizing that implementing restorative peer mediation teams is not necessarily the primary measure of success or focus of the project. We are constantly reminded of our goal to help shift school culture, which can take many forms. In the elementary schools, many strategies are underway. We are involved in four elemen-


Author and RJ practitioner Catherine Bargen at a Howard Zehr-led workshop

tary schools… Staff from each of these schools participated in a 16-hour training held from October to January… The aim of the elementary training was to “educate the educators” in RA and give them some basic skills for working with their students. This training was extremely well attended (32 staff from the four schools) and well received. (p. 20)  [From CJI’s 2005 annual report] Although our programs and training methods are designed to be sustainable without our supervision and intervention, we are aware that many schools can use additional support and “troubleshooting” in implementing an effective RA program. (p. 22)  [From CJI’s 2007 annual report] Dialogue circles — also known as peace circles — were initiated as a way for students to discuss important issues in a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere. Last May, two dialogue circles were held at Palm Elementary School with a group of 10 Grade 2 girls as a way to discuss the issue of inclusion on the playground. This was our first attempt at holding a dialogue circle and it was not only a lot of fun but a great educational tool to use with the girls. (p. 25)  [From CJI’s 2008 annual report] Restorative dialogue circles were initiated at Victory Secondary School in spring 2007. Working with the school’s youth care worker, we facilitated four circles on the topic of drug and alcohol use and its effect on individuals as well as on the school community. Students responded positively and requested another series of circles. The next set of four circles was held in fall 2007. We had good initial response from students wanting to participate, with eight or nine students, mostly boys, consistently attending each session. The topic for this set of circles was on drugs and violence. More student-based requests led us to hold another set of four circles in spring 2008. (p. 27)  [From CJI’s 2010 annual report] “At the elementary level, so far we have trained 10 students and one staff at Watson Elementary to be “Playground Pals.” This is the elementary equivalent of the secondary program, Conversation Peace. As a result of this initiative, these elementary students are now helping other students get along in the playground. (p. 31)

 In time we identified some effective strategic principles, the most important of which was: work with your allies. Others included: make it fun, make it accessible, involve students, and seek student input from the beginning of program development. We tried to make it about building relationships and helping schools see how what we’re offering helps them achieve their existing goals, mandated or otherwise. (p. 32)  [Successful programs] empower young people by making sure they buy into the process willingly rather than feeling forced to participate in a face-to-face dialogue with someone they are in conflict with or have been hurt by. This is a real danger in school settings that have a culture that imposes top-down authority from adults, especially if they begin to unilaterally “enforce” RA. (p. 32)  Sometimes RA programs become equated with “mediation programs,” which in turn are seen as being focused on problem-solving only. In this case progress may be made on a problem, but the underlying causes and accompanying bitter feelings remain. (p. 33)  While it is possible to get started without any funding, it never hurts to have some. Sometimes a school district will make some money or in-kind support available, but not necessarily right away. Apply for grants that support youth initiatives, safe schools, and crime prevention and anti-violence initiatives. If you are part of the school administration, you may be able to creatively reallocate human and material resources. (p. 33)  Once we had been running the RA program for five or six years, we received some financial support from the school district. We have also been fortunate to receive support from individual schools for matters such as providing relief teachers when classroom teachers were in the RA training. Other programs rely heavily on in-kind contributions — their rent, supplies, or even training materials are provided by other sources such as the school district or the local police detachment. Whatever the case, creativity and persistence are required. (p. 34)  Getting small, one-time grants or funding is possible as many grants are available for supporting youth and anti-violence

PHOTO by Howard Zehr

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initiatives on a pilot-project basis. However, getting sustainable funding is often a life-long task. (p. 34)  We quickly realized that schools found it difficult to schedule time for the training sessions, and so we adapted our schedule to fit theirs. Some chose to do it all at once — four days straight — while others opted for once a week or once every two weeks. Some schools were creative and did the training as a weekend retreat off-site. The key is to remain flexible with the training schedule or approach. (p. 35)  We designed Conversation Peace so that according to the situation, adults and youth could train together or separately. Most of our training sessions have youth and adult participants together, an approach that everyone involved seems to enjoy. (p. 37)  In some ways our model succeeded by simply creating a space where students could speak openly to each other to sort out problems, rather than having to relate in ways their friends might expect (e.g., showing bravado, making rude comments, intentionally shunning, and starting a fight). (p. 35)  Pizza and doughnuts at lunch-time meetings are seen as a major perk and keep students involved and excited. I’m not sure if any research supports this, but it works. (p. 47)  An enjoyable and successful part of this program involved including secondary-school student mediators in training as mentors for the elementary-level mediators. The secondary school students loved it and the elementary school ones were in awe. (p. 62, reworded slightly)  In our RA program, we receive many referrals for interpersonal conflicts that result in classroom disruptions or complaints from parents. Others include: name calling, minor threats, email/internet misconduct, exclusion, minor harassment, and minor assaults and fighting. Many of these are successfully handled by the student mediators. We also take on more serious cases that include property damage and vandalism, persistent harassment and intimidation, plagiarism and systematic cheating on assignments, bringing small “weapons” (such as a pocket knife) to school, and cases of assault. In these situations we often use adult facilitators from CJI and/or trained school staff and district counsellors. (p. 38)  After six years of implementing RA in SD35, we finally saw it become part of the district’s policy. The mandate to train an RA team in every secondary and elementary school first appeared in the Langley School Board’s 2006-2007 Strategic Plan and remains a part of their current plan. (p. 50)  A Ministerial Order was released by provincial Ministry of Education in 2007 stating that Provincial Standards for Codes of Conduct require focusing on consequences “that are restorative in nature rather than punitive.” (p. 51)  Explore how to make research and evaluation a priority from the outset. Programs similar to ours have conducted successful evaluation by engaging with a local university and creating a partnership that met their research needs while providing an exciting project for a grad student. (p. 58) Reprinted from Educating for Peacebuilding. © by Catherine Bargen. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


peacebuilder spring/summer 2011

Catherine Bargen, MA '08

Long-time practitioner Dan Basham looked back at his four years of working on restorative action programs in British Columbia schools, and came up with a list of nine lessons. Here are three of them from Educating for Peacebuilding (pages 73 and 74):

1. Work towards strengthening existing relationships before trying to forge new ones. Don’t neglect the individuals who have supported us. Keep them as priorities on a day-to-day basis.

2. Be available. School staff members are working in a high-stress environment and are sometimes forced to multi-task as they handle serious situations. We should be available when they phone for help in order to avoid days of frustrating telephone tag. Being available helps create a trusting working relationship that can have a calming effect. If administrators know that help is at hand, they can take that one item off of their to-do list.

3. Emphasize what Restorative Action (RA) is, as opposed to comparing it to punishment or what it is not. Some administrators and teachers fail to see that their school’s interventions amount to punishment. Then, when I compare RA to punishment it causes a defensive reaction, making it more of a hard sell and more difficult for them to understand. Some educators see RA as a challenge to their authority and are afraid that it will make them obsolete. Others feel that they are being criticized for how they are doing their job. No wonder they are not open to RA.  PHOTO by Howard Zehr


Rebecca Stone, MA '11, and Dave Saunier, MA '04, of Central Virginia Restorative Justice, headquartered in Charlottesville

Lowering crime By building community The transition from schoolteaching to restorative justice practitioner was not a big leap for Rebecca Stone (MA ’11). She had worked in a therapeutic boarding school for two years and grasped the skills and methodologies helpful for addressing problems with special education students. She was patient, affirming, flexible. A good listener. All of which stand her well for the hours she spends with middle and high school students in and around Charlottesville, Virginia, working case by case, often before school begins and at the end of the school day, to help students address the messes in which they find themselves and to make amends as needed. Since the founding of Central Virginia Restorative Justice in 2002, Stone is its first employee to meet many of its school-aged clients in the schools that they attend. In 2001, Dave Saunier (MA ’04) became the first full-time director of Central Virginia RJ. Saunier was lucky. Charlottesville, the hometown of Sauner and of the University of Virginia, already had a core group of “movers and shakers” interested in pursuing alternatives such as restorative justice. The region’s criminal justice planner had assembled a “restorative justice task force,” consisting of a key judge and a half-dozen prominent players within the criminal justice system, including the assistant commonwealth’s attorney. To this day these individuals remain core members of the task force. “I had the benefit of growing up in a community that has a culture of openness to doing things differently,” said Saunier. Even though the interest and will were present, the funding was not – or at least, it had to be patched together from grants that were not large enough or long-term enough to enable

Saunier to work with the security of a solid salary and assurance that his organization could operate beyond a year or two. “Nobody is doing restorative justice as a lucrative career or highly prestigious profession,” said Saunier. “All of us are motivated by the belief that RJ is healthier for everyone – for the victims of crime, for the offenders, and for the communities torn apart by crimes. Healthy communities built on strong relationships produce less crime and wrongdoing.” In fiscal year 2010, Central Virginia RJ served 190 people. The results were impressive. Juvenile offenders who went through RJ processes had a 10 percent re-offending rate, compared to 25 percent for the state of Virginia. The victims served expressed 100 percent satisfaction in the outcomes, in confidential post-intervention surveys. Eighty-two percent of the clients fully completed their agreed-upon accountability steps. And demand keeps growing: More than 200 people were served in fiscal year 2011. Asked for a story on how RJ has helped in Charlotteseville, Stone offered this one: Two teenage boys were hanging out at a bus stop when a UVa graduate student and his girlfriend walked by. The girlfriend was whistled at, and a plastic bottle was thrown the couple’s way. The grad student verbally reprimanded the teens, and one of the young men punched the grad student, breaking his nose. Stone and other staffers spent almost six months laying the groundwork – that is, meeting with all parties to prepare them – and then facilitated a circle process which included the teenagers, their closest adult family members, a former teacher of one teen, and the victim of the assault. The teens expressed genuine remorse – one had tears in his eyes, after listening in the circle to his mother speak about how saddened and disappointed she felt upon hearing that her son would attack someone like that. The teenagers agreed to split the $520 bill for the grad student’s medical treatment and lost wages. The grad student expressed satisfaction at the end, saying he felt more secure and hopeful for the boys' future.  — BPL PHOTO courtesy of Central Virginia Restorative Justice

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The Restoration of James Madison University “I have seen many negative, harmful incidents go through restorative processes and come out the other side with transformed students and community members. This is not something people involved in student discipline are used to seeing.” — Josh Bacon, PhD Director of Judicial Affairs James Madison University

In just three years, Josh Bacon has mobilized some 50 administrators and staff members in nearly a dozen departments sprawled across the 665-acre campus of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, to embrace restorative justice practices when dealing with each other and with students. Bacon says it is not a difficult “sell.” One person gets hooked on restorative justice and tells another person and soon a group evolves to attend a restorative justice short seminar, with some continuing to multiple-day trainings. “The point is, RJ [restorative justice] works,” says Bacon. “And 12

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lots of other interventions used for years with students don’t.” Here’s how Bacon himself came to RJ: After more than a decade of ushering misbehaving students at JMU through hearings on their conduct, sanctions, and other legalistic steps, Josh Bacon was ready for a change in 2009. “I went into educational leadership and student affairs because I cared about young adults and their futures,” he says. “But that’s not how they perceived me – they saw me as the ‘bad guy,’ somebody there to enforce the university’s rules, somebody who wasn’t on their side.” So he took a course at EMU with restorative justice pioneer Howard Zehr. Before the semester was even over, he started applying Zehr’s teachings to his student judicial work. “One of the biggest oversights in my [previous] work was not engaging the victim; my office was almost entirely offender focused,” recalls Bacon. Bacon found that he saw astonishing results if he asked the victims of offenses, the perpetrators of them, and affected community members to sit in a facilitated circle and, one by one, share their thoughts on the harms done and the ways those harms could be “put right.” “I’ve been amazed by how these circles work,” he says. “I’ve never felt so connected to people. It’s almost magical, spiritual, sitting in a circle, passing a talking piece, listening carefully to each other, going deeper. Every one of the students has risen to the occasion.” PHOTO by Jon Styer


Josh Bacon, PhD, JMU Director of Judicial Affairs

Bacon has used restorative justice processes with 20 cases so far – “I keep waiting to see when one will go bad”– from a couple of guys in a fight, to 15 people occupying an entire dormitory floor who needed to sort some problems out. Here’s an example of a relatively simple case handled by Bacon: There were these two students who knew each other as freshmen. Fueled by alcohol, one guy assaulted the other. A year later, the victim contacted me, only coming forward because he had heard about restorative justice. He didn’t want a judicial proceeding; he just wanted to stop ‘living with this thing as I have been for the last year.’ I conferred individually with both parties and made sure that they were both ready to sit with each other and respectfully talk about what had happened. That took maybe six hours total. They each were encouraged to bring one support person along. The victim wanted to know why he was targeted for an assault – not knowing why, he had been living in fear of possibly another one. The attacker explained that he had been upset with other things in his life and that he would never attack again. He had once been assaulted himself and he knew what it was like. The victim received a heartfelt apology. I have never seen or heard college students talk like this to each other about a serious issue. The dialogue got to a much deeper level. Both left the meeting feeling like a load had been lifted from their shoulders. The meeting itself only took an hour. If I compare that to what is involved in a formal judicial hearing

– often attorneys present at $1,000 an hour, family members, witnesses, police officers and so forth – it is obvious which approach works better with fewer resources used. Bacon’s fresh approach to discipline has rippled out into many offices and departments dealing with JMU’s 19,500 students, including those concerned with substance abuse, off-campus life, residence life, clubs and organizations, fraternity and sorority life, the health center and even university planning. Bacon and his collaborators at JMU have come up with a draft “vision statement” for a “university community that is dedicated to living restoratively.” In a nutshell, the seven points in the draft describe a university where a student learns to live healthily and healingly in community from the day of freshman orientation through his or her time in residence, to handling conflicts in the classroom, on the playing field, and among friends and family members. For example, Kristen Muncy, an official in the JMU office of student activities & involvement, now devotes a day of the annual week-long “Presidential Leadership Academy” – targeted at the leaders of student government, clubs, Greek societies, and athletic teams – to restorative justice training. As a sign of JMU’s commitment to RJ, the university has just hired its first, full-time “coordinator of restorative practices,” based in Bacon’s office. The new person is Chris Ehrhart, a 2011 graduate of EMU’s master’s in conflict transformation, with a focus on restorative justice. In March 2010, 20 JMU officials, including the senior vice president for student affairs and university planning, joined 50 administrators from 11 other universities at EMU’s first symposium on restorative justice in college settings. About half of this group stayed for three additional days to undergo intensive training led by Bacon, Shay Bright of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and David Karp of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. In March 2011, a three-day RJ training for campus conduct administrators was repeated at EMU, with 25 attendees from eight universities, including far-flung University of San Diego in California, Carleton College in Minnesota and University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Again, Bacon and Karp led the training, along with Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, co-director of the office on crime and justice for Mennonite Central Committee, and Dr. Carl Stauffer, EMU restorative justice professor. Now Bacon plans to offer RJ training to campus conduct officers from around the region, meeting at the Baltimore campus of the University of Maryland in the fall of 2011. “I believe higher education is just beginning to discover the potential of restorative justice practices in creating educated and enlightened citizens,” he says.  — BPL Josh Bacon, PhD, holds degrees from Clemson University in Educational Leadership, with a cognate in Law, and from Salisbury University in Education Administration, with a concentration in counseling. He codirects the College Student Personnel Administration masters program, in addition to having judicial and teaching responsibilities. Bacon is enrolled in the graduate program at CJP “just because I like learning about this stuff – I don’t need another degree!”

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Jennifer Larson Sawin (center), MA '04, with restorative justice professor Carl Stauffer (left) at a workshop at EMU.

Partnering with police to do RJ In the summer of 2010, a Massachusetts man who had just retired from 33 years of policing – the last 17 as a police chief – did an odd thing for relaxation and rejuvenation: he enrolled in Howard Zehr’s restorative justice class at EMU’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI). Chief Len Wetherbee already knew quite a bit about the subject. While serving as chief in Concord, Massachusetts, he had read books by Howard Zehr and knew of Barry Stuart, a long-time judge in Canada who had written about the restorative ways indigenous peoples respond to “criminal” matters. But now Wetherbee was interested in learning more about the university that had educated a bright, energetic woman he had helped recruit in 2008 to be executive director of Communities for Restorative Justice in Massachusetts. Her name was Jennifer Larson Sawin (MA ’04) – she had previously worked with Central Virginia Restorative Justice in Charlottesville, Virginia, but landed in the Boston area when her physician-husband got a position with Tufts University. “Chief Wetherbee called me throughout the week at SPI,” Larson Sawin recalls with a smile. “I suspected he’d be wary of the ritual components of SPI, but the coursework caught his imagination. He said the days went so quickly, five o’clock would roll around and he felt like the day had just started.” At first, some of his SPI classmates were skeptical that police – often considered a fundamentally coercive force – could play a positive role in RJ processes. If only they had known the full scope of what was happening in Massachusetts. 14

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Beginning in 2000, Wetherbee led his department to use restorative processes for juvenile offenses such as vandalism, trespassing, shoplifting, and bullying. The department encouraged the development of a group of trained volunteers to handle these matters, with an officer sitting in on each case. The results were so positive, neighboring police departments got wind of the experiment and became interested too. By the time Larson Sawin was hired in 2008, Communities for Restorative Justice had 80 trained volunteers handling referrals from police departments in two communities northwest of Boston. Three years later, volunteers now number 100, and 10 communities are in the mix – including the urban communities of Cambridge and Arlington – with more communities knocking on the door. Offenses now include violent crime, offenders with records, and adult-initiated offenses. “More of our police partners understand that restorative justice must treat the victim’s needs as central. If the victim wants restorative justice, it shouldn’t matter if the offender is 16 or 60, or that he broke into someone else’s house last week and therefore has a rap sheet,” explains Larson Sawin. As an example of a successful case, Larson Sawin told of a swastika spray-painted on the side of a school building. The community wondered if there was a sleeper cell of neo-Nazis lurking about. When the young men responsible were caught, they agreed to participate in a circle process with members of the synagogue. They heard stories of childhood years spent in Nazi Germany and about all those who perished under that symbol. This encounter proved transformational for the young men. As for the future, “we’ve got miles to go,” says Larson Sawin. “Any theory of change must include ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ strategies. While more communities are embracing this approach, we’re working towards statewide legislation. With folks like Chief Wetherbee in our corner, I know we’ll get there.”  — BPL PHOTO by Howard Zehr


Grads in India go to hot spots Ashok Gladston Xavier brought a heart-wrenching documentary film with him when he returned for a brief visit to EMU on June 30, 2011. Shown to about 50 of his old friends and colleagues at the EMU library, the film told of terrorized women living in Khandamal, a small district of Orissa, a state in the eastern part of India. These women were part of a minority group – in this case Christian – violently victimized by mobs from the surrounding majority-Hindu group. From Ashok’s perspective, the nature of the minority status in this case is less significant than the reality that all minorities tend to be highly vulnerable to persecution by majorities, unless a culture of tolerance, mutual respect and reconciliation is fostered. “I’ve worked a lot in Sri Lanka, and there the Sinhalese majority group is Buddhist and the minority group is the Tamil-speaking, who are mostly Hindu and Muslim,” says Ashok. “Regardless of the groups involved in the struggle, the fundamental issue is that everyone deserves the same basic rights of shelter, food, clothing, a means to make a living, and freedom to worship as they see fit.” Ashok and his wife, Florina Immaculate Mary Benoit, often work as a team traveling to hot spots upon request for trainings in conflict transformation and trauma healing, usually over weekends. During the week, both of them hold demanding jobs in southern India – Florina does operations capacity-building for a refugee self-help organization and Ashok is professor of social work at a major university. Both of them earned PhDs in India after completing their master’s degrees at CJP in 2004 as Fulbright scholars. “The first question I always ask when I go into a situation is, ‘What happened?’ and then I always hear two different stories, depending on which ‘side’ I am speaking to,” said Ashok. “Then I say, ‘Well, let’s put parts of these stories together and see if we can answer the next questions, Who has been affected by this event? What are the violations and what are the needs? Can we take joint responsibility to address these needs?’ “Answering these questions takes days, of course, of people talking in settings, with facilitators, where they feel safe and can be honest and vulnerable,” Ashok told Peacebuilder. “We have to start with conversations and move to relationship-building to emerge from the trauma cycle of victimization, vengeance and re-victimization.” In the past year, Ashok has focused intently on helping to alleviate the suffering – and break the cyclical violence – experienced by impoverished Christian citizens living in Khandamal. Over a period of 300 days, 50,000 of them were displaced from their homes and several of their villages were reduced to ashes. And it all could be traced to a misunderstanding about the killing of a popular Hindu swami. Local followers of the swami blamed Christians, but Ashok said

Ashok Gladston Xavier, MA '04

actually a Maoist group admitted responsibility for the killing. “My goal is to help the people of this region to create what I think everyone wants, deep in their hearts – a just and peaceful society,” says Ashok. In one part of Sri Lanka, Ashok and Florina have assisted the people in post-war reconstruction, using development as a tool for building peace. They facilitated a “peace dialogue,” which enabled community members who had been avoiding each other to begin to interact. Two years later in this community, when a terrorist incident caused the Sinhalese-dominated military to sweep through the homes of Tamils, Ashok says the local Sinhalese gave shelter to their Tamil neighbors and told the military, “If you want to take them, you’ll have to take us first.”  — BPL PHOTO by Bonnie Price Lofton

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Restorative councils help Pakistani police Ali Gohar updates jirga As the founding director of JustPeace International, Ali Gohar (MA ’02) has worked at updating the practice of jirga, an ancient tradition in Pakistan whereby respected and wise elders deliberate in an open community forum to resolve conflicts. In 2003, he and fellow CJP graduate Hassan Yousufza (MA ’03) co-authored Pukhtoon Jirga, a book available for downloading at In a 2010 interview with Insight on Conflict (, Gohar explained that he was raised in a traditional Pashtun culture: “My family was involved in enmities, which affected my childhood so much that I promised to do something against the traditions of revenge, honour killing, shame factors, and cruelties by the name of honour.” As an adult, he worked as a social welfare commissioner for Afghan refugees, where he saw “more violence, destruction, kidnapping, murder, and displacement of refugees.” In April 2011, Gohar told journalist Lis Horta Moriconi of Comunidad Segura ( that EMU professor Howard Zehr and his teachings on restorative justice inspired Gohar to tap his own jirga system as a “means to mitigate conflict and contribute towards peacebuilding.”

Ali Gohar in a meeting on jirga matters

Gohar studied with Zehr as a Fulbright scholar in 2001. Upon returning to Pakistan in 2003, Gohar encountered Malik Naveed, then inspector general of police for the district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (he retired in 2010). This very high-ranking police official had become familiar with restorative justice as an official visitor to Japan. With Naveed’s support, Gohar opened dispute-resolution offices, staffed by respected and trained community elders, in 73 village-level police stations (now 93 stations). Gohar told Comunidad Segura that restoring the principles of traditional elder councils has meant “promoting consensus” in areas where, according to him “peace is a touchy subject and men wear guns like women wear ornaments.” An abridged and slightly revised version of the Comunidad Segura interview follows. It is printed with Gohar’s, Moriconi’s, and the Brazilian publisher’s permission.


Mohammad Ishaq Israr


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Mohammad Ishaq Israr used to be a schoolteacher. But in 2005, when northern Pakistan was devastated by a major earthquake, Ishaq rushed to help and decided, after three months, that he was better suited to disaster assistance than to teaching. That’s what Ishaq was doing when he met Ali Gohar at a conflict resolution training sponsored by JustPeace International. Ali, who was growing his organization to its current level of eight staffers, recognized Ishaq to be a bright, well-motivated man, with a kindred spirit.

Ali brought Ishaq aboard in 2008 and began training him in mediation skills, restorative justice, conflict analysis and trauma healing. In the summer of 2010, Ishaq’s old skills in handling natural disasters were suddenly needed again. Flooding affected 20.4 million people in Pakistan -- more than the total number affected by the 2004 tsunami, the 2005 hurricane in New Orleans, the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. “We diverted all of our funds and ourselves to disaster assistance,” said Ishaq. “You can’t talk to people about dispute resolution when they are in the water!” On May 13, 2011, JustPeace broke

PHOTOS courtesy of Ali Gohar (above), by Lindsey Kolb (left)


What is innovative about the dispute resolution project? The dispute resolution project in Khyber Pukhtoon Khwa Province involved training elders and police in alternative dispute resolution, our traditional jirga system and in restorative justice. Our other project, “diversion,” diverts youths from police stations and from entering the court system. The same elders of the dispute resolution program also take part in this diversion program, especially in cases that would involve offending by youths from the community, with the goal of rehabilitating them.

In the work with police stations, which elements of conflict transformation and restorative justice are present, and how? We teach all methods of peace building. The common practice is arbitration, but we try to change it to mediation and restorative justice. Jirga traditionally dispenses punishment for offenders, but we try to update it by including restorative elements of community work, to bring it closer to the modern human rights values. Continued on page 18 >

When did the project with the police start? The police project started in 2008 with financial assistance of the Asia Foundation and the Australian embassy. This funding ended in 2010. Today we still work with the police on a volunteer basis.

What inspired you to involve elders? I am from the Pukhtoon tribe, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and we consider ourselves the world’s largest and oldest tribe. Our 5,000-year history is well known. One traditional system has remained with us, called jirga: the elder council. It not only resolves conflict, but when there was no state, it ruled the Pukhtoon area through consensus. We organized the first international seminar on restorative justice in Pakistan in 2003 led by Malik Naveed, then Director FIA KPK, and supported by Senator Asfundyar khattak, the late Dr. Kabir and myself. In 2008 we introduced [restorative-justicetrained] elders into police stations in two trial districts. The result was very successful, from minor issues to murder. The elders resolved family conflicts and many other disputes. Ali Gohar (center) with a police official

new ground by holding an interfaith seminar, with Hindu, Muslim and Christian participants. The seminar participants all agreed that the treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan was deplorable, but Ishaq said Ali sought to show them how they could work together to ease some of their problems. For instance, one group of 40 or 50 Christian households was suffering from contaminated water supplies that the authorities refused to fix. Ali said, “Well, how much will it take to fix this problem?” The answer was 10,000 rupees. And Ali replied, “There are 70 to 80 of us here today. I am putting in 5,000 rupees – anyone want to join me?” Within 25 minutes, about 5,000 rupees had been

collected to fix the water supply. In each village, JustPeace International tries to ensure that the Muslahathi committee, made up of volunteers working from the police station, includes at least one representative of a minority group from the area, along with, if possible: a lawyer, social worker, religious scholar, retired police officer, retired revenue officer, and a number of women, with the goal of having at least one woman for every five men. One of Ishaq’s favorite cases involved a “punishment” whereby a young boy who did property damage had to read the newspaper to unschooled elders in the (Hujra) traditional community center each evening. After his three-month sentence

was over, the boy happily opted to keep reading to the old men. Ishaq says such interactions may help restore the kinds of community relations he recalls from his childhood 25 years ago: “Each village used to have a community center – basically one open room – where people would often eat together, play cards, games, and music, tell stories, and monitor the activities of the children. A traveler passing through was welcome to sleep there as our guest. I used to love to play marbles there.” In late spring 2011, Ishaq came to EMU’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute to take courses on restorative justice and on monitoring and evaluation.

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How would you describe the elders’ contribution towards conflict resolution and peacebuilding? Due to the prolonged, expensive, corrupt and win/lose character and situation of the criminal justice system, decisions taken in the court system result in hostility and enmity for years after, since in the official system there is no reconciliation. One of the best aspects of the “Muslahathi” (reconciliation) committees is that they can resolve, reconcile, rehabilitate and follow up the parties until full-fledged friendly, brotherly relationships are established, and enmities are finished once and for all.

Why “Muslahathi committees”? Muslahathi in our language means to make wrongs right, while adal, means justice done. So Muslahathi committees are concerned with making wrong right, preferably with reconciliation, while adal (justice) is done by the court.

Is it correct to say that these committees are a new “modernized version” of the jirga system of elder councils? Yes, the Muslahathi committee is a new version of the jirga. The jirga worked according to the traditional practices, but their decisions were verbal, and women were not allowed to participate. In contrast, the Muslahathi committee decisions are taken according to modern scientific principles of conflict transformation, peace building, and restorative justice. Every decision is written down and registered. Women are also trained (forming their own committees) and a connection is made to the male committees. However the women’s decisions mostly take effect at the community level because of the strict rules of cultural and religious traditional practices. Ali Gohar, MA ’02

How do you choose the elders? We choose people with good reputations. Since the police know the communities well, this is verified by the police intelligence agencies, and their track records are selected by the high police officials. 

To view a video on the modern practice of jirga in Pakistan or for more information, visit the website of JustPeace International:



Attempted Murder





Abbottabad Mardan Swabi

Land Disputes


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peacebuilder spring/summer 2011

Referred by Courts

PHOTO by Howard Zehr




Just CARL Raised in war-torn Vietnam for his first 11 years, Dr. Carl Stauffer ’85 (MA ’02) experienced few doubts during his formative years as to where he was heading: always towards peace work and practical ministry.

Chapter 1: Vietnam

My parents went to Vietnam in 1957 under what is now called Eastern Mennonite Missions. They were the first Mennonites there, as far as I know. I was born in 1964. Four years later, we lived through the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

The Tet Offensive was a massive coordinated attack begun January 1968 by the North Vietnamese military on multiple sites in South Vietnam, including Saigon where the Stauffer family was living. By the time it ended in March 1968, tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides were dead, with the heaviest losses sustained by the North Vietnamese. . Fighting came within a half mile of our home. Bullets were falling on our tin roof. A helicopter rained down fire on an adjacent gas station. We were under curfew, but a 13-year-old Vietnamese girl broke it in order to come and help us get out of the part of the city where the fighting was fiercest. She showed us a route through small alleys in a squatter area. "We were a family of five on a scooter – my brother sitting on the spare tire on the back holding onto my mother who was holding onto Dad. I was on my mother’s lap – I think she was sitting side saddle. My sister was standing in front of my father holding onto the scooter’s handlebar. "I remember getting under the bed and praying and singing with my parents. To my parents’ credit, I never recall a sense of terror, and neither do my two siblings – somehow they shielded us from the fear of that time. "My father went out after the Tet Offensive and took pictures. One showed a burnt-out tank close to our home. Another showed a North Vietnamese soldier – they wore all black – who had been killed by mass violence. I recall his feet were tied together and his hands, and he was dragged through the streets while people cheered and threw stuff. He

wasn’t given an honorable burial. He was used for mob hatred. I have never forgotten those scenes. "We left in ’75, three weeks before Saigon was taken over – I guess my parents were worried about what might happen to us children in the ensuing chaos – it is not that they were supporters of the South Vietnamese regime. "We weren’t sure we could all get out together. We had tickets for one plane but it was canceled and we had to come up with more money for other tickets. Dad didn’t have the cash and was trying to figure out how to get my mother, sister and I out (my brother was already in a boarding school in the Philippines). He had resigned himself to staying back, when Bob Pierce [who first founded World Vision, then Samaritan’s Purse] was in the same line trying to get out. Bob said [to Carl’s father] 'you look distressed,' and when he realized why, he pulled out his credit cards and said, 'You buy whatever you need to get you and your whole family out.'

Carl Stauffer, facilitating a workshop

Carl’s mother, Arlene died in 1985. Then his father, James, married Ruth Yoder, who had been a missionary nurse in Vietnam for six years. Fluent in Vietnamese, James and Ruth continue to interact with the Vietnamese Mennonite Church in northern Virginia, as well as relate to local Vietnamese community members in the Shenandoah Valley.

Chapter 2: South Africa

So when we [Carl and his wife Carolyn ’84] arrived on the scene in South Africa – it was 1994 and we were MCC volunteers – I had not been exposed to a low-scale war situation since Vietnam, not counting the three years as a teenager in the Philippines when the Marcos regime was crumbling and there was plenty of political violence. "I had a tour of a township with this young soldier with a gun. And I was going through a place where the houses were abandoned, I was picking up empty bullet shells—this was ’94 and I was 29 years old – but the trauma of war came back to me. Not in a way that I couldn’t handle. But I started to feel, and smell, and sense danger in that setting. "And I had to talk my way through it, saying, 'You are in South Africa and in a relatively safe zone.' It was hot -- the sun was beating down -and there was a big armored personnel carrier moving up and down the street. This was apartheid South Africa. I could feel the fear of war and the carnage of that time in Vietnam. It was the first time that I felt trauma revisiting me.

PHOTO courtesy of Carl Stauffer

Continued on page 20 >

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Carl Stauffer, EMU’s newest professor

of restorative justice, brings vast cross-cultural experience in conflict transformation and building peace. After earning an EMU degree in social work (with a minor in Bible and religion), Stauffer spent six years planting an interracial center-city church in Richmond, Virginia. He also was the founding director of Richmond’s Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program. While living in Johannesburg, South Africa, for 16 years, Carl and Carolyn Stauffer raised daughter Grace and son Christopher (now a junior at EMU), earned a PhD each, and left a rich legacy of accomplishments among churches and nongovernment organizations across the continent. Just a glimpse at Carolyn, who mainly teaches undergraduates in EMU’s sociology department: She grew up in the Middle East, is fluent in Hebrew, graduated from EMU with a degree in social work, and spent most of her time in South Africa working on organizational and community development and addressing gender-based violence. Back to Carl, in South Africa he focused on the transition from apartheid-era warfare to post-apartheid efforts at stabilizing that country. He was plugged into various transitional processes, including the peace accords, community-police forums, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and local community development structures. From 2000 to 2009, Carl was Mennonite Central Commit-

tee’s Regional Peace Adviser for the Southern Africa region, a role that took him to 20 African countries and 10 other countries in the Caribbean, Middle East, Europe, and the Balkans. He stresses that he consulted this widely only by invitation and that he got good feedback and gentle correctives from a 12-member task force of respected colleagues that he assembled in South Africa to help him make wise decisions. Carl’s 16 years of intense activity cannot be fairly covered in these pages, so we will focus on five instructive examples, with the caveat that Carl always teamed up with others, usually folks more deeply rooted in a particular context than he was. In short, neither he nor MCC gets, or claims, all the credit.  — BPL

Continued from page 19, FIVE LESSONS >

2. Sustained and long-term dialogue is crucial for healing


South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was only the first step in a much longer journey that has yet to be realized, says Carl Stauffer. Most of us know the TRC because it was one of the first such commissions in the world and certainly the best known, headed by Nobel Peace laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu. Carl says the TRC was well motivated, but their mandate was much too large for their two-year timeframe, so while they did lay the groundwork for national healing, it was only a first stride.

Every Sunday night there was a TRC special report for about two hours on the TV and radio – the nation listened and watched what happened that week. That is when the so-called reconciliation meetings were watched... They were difficult viewing at times. This was partly because the offenders had thought about their complicity for a long, long time, and they frequently had a heartfelt apology to offer that would get their guilt feelings off their chests. But the victims, or their surviving family members, hadn’t to this point been provided with a forum in which to process their feelings. They had been holding their feelings down, and most of them weren’t emotionally prepared for this meeting. It was often a difficult process for them to articulate and vent several decades’ worth of grief in only a several-hour encounter.


peacebuilder spring/summer 2011

Professors Carolyn and Carl Stauffer

and for people and communities to find their own solutions.

The ecumenical NGO that I was affiliated with and three other NGOs were part of a steering committee that pulled together a pilot project to show an alternative way of building community. We chose four magisterial districts that we had worked with in greater Johannesburg and Pretoria. We then identified a community-based organization in each district to partner with us. This partner put forward 10 people to be trained – from youth organizations, legal aid centers, churches and so forth – and so we trained 40 mediators. Then we worked with the courts to refer cases to these mediators. We told the local judges, 'at least try this,' especially since the crime situation was desperate in South Africa. The system is really overloaded, bulging. There was a two-year waiting list to get your day in court. "As a general rule, the African magistrates [i.e. those with indigenous roots] were very open to restorative justice, because it made sense to them. We had one judge who would start his day by inviting everyone on the court roster to gather in front of him. He would give them a choice of being seen by him at some point that day for a ruling, or of talking with our mediators ('they are right here, waiting to speak with you'). At least a third of them chose the mediators, and they got good results. The mediators had been through a five-day training course initially; they then got a three-day refresher course, so eight days in all.

PHOTO by Bonnie Price Lofton


3. Joint artistic and narrative productions are powerful tools for achieving reconciliation.

There were these two commanders, one from the IFP and the other from the ANC [rival political groups], who had been fighting all through the townships after Mandela’s release in 1990. We taught them video skills and asked them to tell their stories on camera and conduct interviews in their respective communities. We asked them to bring their footage back to the Peace Media Center in Cape Town and together come up with one 90-minute video that they could both stomach, that would explain the political violence. They ended up identifying 11 different roots to the conflict, and most of them were the same for both their communities. "What happened between the commanders was so transformational. They reconciled, and they said 'we need to share this.' We started to have public viewings for the political parties, women’s groups, youth groups, churches, etc. We broke them into small 'commissions' with a mixed composition and we used trained facilitators for dialoguing in each. This went on for three years and moved into other neighboring areas. 'This was our TRC,' said one participant. It definitely became an instrument of reconciliation in this township outside Johannesburg, which had lost about 2,000 people between 1990 and 1995. We trained videographers to work in teams until the communities themselves took over the process.

4. The plight, and the potential, of ex-combatants.

We decided to do a pilot project aimed at reintegrating ex-soldiers into the community. In South Africa, as in many post-conflict countries, they had been demobilized – their guns and uniforms had been taken away – but very few of them were integrating into society in any normal sense. Some of the ex-soldiers were still trying to get hold of their commanders, who were high up in the government. They never returned their calls. 'Wake up!' we said. 'These guys are not going to return your calls. Think -- what are you going to do?' "They were coming back into the new South Africa with the understanding that they would have jobs, housing, positions in the government, and all these promises that had motivated them to fight, but their hopes were not being realized. A handful got integrated into the police and military, but the rest were left without a job, without an education. Some, not all, of them turned to crime. Many of them were suffering on the fringes and in poverty and were wondering what they had fought for. "Our vision was to take that same energy that caused these men to become liberation fighters and say, 'Now you are community peacebuilders. After all, that is what you wanted – isn’t it? A new South Africa: a new community. So how can your energy and passion be turned toward building community?' "We had a classic soldier who enrolled in our project. Chiseled features, proud and with an upright posture, angry, but very controlled. A trained, disciplined man. "We asked this proud man, 'Why are you here?' "'Because I think we have been living a lie,' he replied. "He really struggled the first five days of our program. 'I didn’t sleep

last night,' he told us. 'I don’t cry. But I cried myself to sleep last night. This program is just messing with my mind.' "We answered: 'So what does it mean to stay with that pain until we can go through the next phase?' He did stay. By the end he was convinced – to the chagrin of his buddies back in the townships, who thought he might be selling out. But this man was in his 40s and he had decided it was time to rebuild. "NGOs took these guys as interns for three months. They were trained to do research focus groups, run meetings, work computers, and some were hired on permanently. A lot of them became community facilitators; some set up their own businesses. But they had learned to look at their own lives and their own violence. They had come to understand historical harms and to practice reconciliation in their own communities. "That soldier with the chiseled face, he is now working for one of the prominent NGOs in South Africa. He is doing research and community facilitation, reaching out to other ex-combatants.

5. Ripples can become waves.

The pilot projects in South Africa provided models for adaptation to other post-war countries. For instance, they laid the groundwork for a nationwide, grassroots movement in Sierra Leone called Fambul Tok, backed by the Catalyst for Peace Foundation in Maine (for which two CJP graduates worked in the launch phase of Fambul Tok).

In 2006, we partnered with John Caulker who had an organization called ‘Forum for Conscience’ in Sierra Leone. We used some of the same material there as in South Africa, working with entire affected communities -- seven to ten thousand had their legs and arms amputated in the civil war in Sierra Leone. There were ex-combatants associations. Bush wives associations. Blinded victim associations. We brought these groups together, 25 to 30 representatives in each of those first workshops in 2006 and 2007. "John helped us to understand the importance of conducting a healing process that would run parallel to the formal Truth and Reconciliation process, which only operated at the upper tip of society. John wanted to start rebuilding his country individual by individual, family by family, village by village, from the base up by simply listening and talking to each other. "Our current justice system needs to recognize initiatives such as Fambul Tok as significant community healing processes. I’m convinced with appropriate research we could make a solid argument that this form of community-level justice is actually more satisfying and more effective for the rebuilding of Sierra Leone than the singular use of the International Criminal Court. This court, for instance, built a building in the capital of Sierra Leone that cost millions. And then it took four years to try nine people, because it was trying to establish all of the details of the atrocities that these nine leaders did during the civil war. "While these factors are important, they are certainly not all that the country needs in order to resolve its pain. As is the case in so many war-torn regions, Sierra Leone needs to be restored, justly, which is a long-term process that can only be done by the people themselves, one day at a time. 

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Abou Ag Ahiyoya (right) with his wife Fadimata and sons, 6-year-old Mohammed and 7-year-old Hachime

African police officer seeking alternatives At the end of his first year as a Fulbright scholar at CJP, Abou Ag Ahiyoya of Mali said he has been impressed with CJP’s emphasis on transformation at the grassroots level. “Until now, I have seen a top-down approach for solving problems,” Abou said in a May 2011 interview with Peacebuilder. Abou comes from the Tuareg ethnic group, who traditionally live nomadically in the Saharan interior of North Africa. The famous Berbers of Morocco are part of this same group. Though Abou was raised with family members who continue to lead the nomadic life in the dessert – to this day, his mother herds her own camels, goats and sheep across a vast territory – Abou went a different route. He pursued higher education and became a high-ranking police officer at age 27, initially in Mali. He was one of the leaders of the civilian police force dispatched to the Darfur area of Sudan by the African Union from 2005 to 2007. By 2008, he was deputy director of the National Policy Academy in Mali. As a police instructor and trainer, he has worked with the United Nations. He has been a consultant and facilitator at the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre in Canada. Despite his impressive credentials, Abou does not present himself as someone who “knows it all”— that is, as someone who prefers issuing commands rather than listening thoughtfully. Instead he seems like the type of kindly and thoughtful person that 22

peacebuilder spring/summer 2011

anyone would want as a neighbor, friend, father, or brother. Abou speaks of walking 10 to 15 miles to attend a Frenchlanguage school as a child and of being 11 when he lost his father, an army soldier, to sickness. Abou explains that after Mali started shifting to a democratic political system in 1990, its police force began to open itself up to minority peoples. Abou was one of the first Tuareg persons to rise to a senior police position. At CJP, Abou says he is trying to gain a deeper understanding of the roots of conflict – and ways to mitigate it, short of using force that contributes to the cycles of violence. “I want to be a peace officer in the future,” he says. “Our prisons are full – the police and courts cannot guarantee stability and peace.” “The AQMI [Saharan terrorists inspired by al-Qaeda] are recruiting lots of our youths because they don’t have jobs. We need to address the causes of terrorism and solve problems from the bottom up.” Abou has seen a society that represents, for him, the worst possible social degradation. It was in Darfur. There for a while, Abou was the acting chief of police operations under the African Union, serving a vast refugee population and supervising almost 1,000 officers from about 25 African countries. He dealt with killings, rapes, and other crimes on a daily basis. He saw children growing up without families, and tens of thousands without real homes. “I witnessed the consequences of war – I don’t want this to happen to any community or country,” he says in a soft-spoken voice. With Abou in Harrisonburg are his wife Fadimata and two young sons, Hachime and Mohammed. Abou says they have been pleased to discover other Muslim students and families to share their experience of living in a majority Christian culture.  — BPL PHOTOS by Jon Styer


I needed a healing form of justice By Doreen Ruto, MA ’06 In May 2001, a federal court in New York convicted four suspects of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. They were later sentenced to life imprisonment. As a victim who attended the trial, I gave testimony on the victim impact to determine the sentencing of the suspects. I remember looking at the suspects as I gave my testimony, and how it suddenly occurred to me that, even if the suspects were sent to the execution chamber, it would never bring back the lives of my late husband and the 240 other Kenyans who died in the terrorist attack. What was more important and urgent to me then and now was not the court battles between the prosecution and the defense attorneys, but a more meaningful process, one that would reveal a sense of remorse and accountability on the part of the offenders for the suffering and loss that their acts of violence had cost me, my two sons and the rest of the Kenyans. To those of us who seek to end violence and injustice in our societies, it is necessary to ask the following questions:  Do the current justice systems create harmony and healing in society?  Does the judicial process promote a sense of reconciliation for both parties in a way that is respectful and life giving rather than adversarial? If not, do we need to consider additional forms of creative justice that will heal and reconcile communities alongside the legal system? I have taken a keen interest in alternative justice systems, those that look at the relationship of parties beyond the courtroom in order to address the needs of both the victims and the offenders and to heal communities. Most have their roots in the indigenous African justice systems. They propose that any form of violence against an individual is a violation of the basic needs of safety and security. Most indigenous forms of justice were wary of retributive justice since it would only serve to further polarize the community and the relationships therein. The systems therefore attempted to restore community harmony first and foremost, rather than hastily punish the offenders. In a paradigm shift, some of the victims of violent crime, with the help of the court and a trained facilitator, have requested to meet the offender in face-to-face meetings outside the courtroom so that the victims can ask those vital questions that are left unanswered by the legal system, yet are very crucial and personal

Doreen Ruto, MA '06, with the elder of her two sons, Richy Bikko, a 2011 graduate of EMU, where he was a top track competitor

to their healing process. The creation of such a “safe space” for both the victims and offenders is not usually provided for by the judicial system. The defense’s focus is on finding the offender not guilty while the prosecution seeks a guilty verdict. The victims are therefore asked questions that further traumatize them. Victim advocacy groups are now requesting judges and defense lawyers to pay attention to the needs of the victims and find ways that are sensitive to all who are affected by crime or acts of violence. If victims take the lead in the process, they are able to effectively end the cycles of violence by dealing with their own feelings of revenge. My own experience as a victim of violence taught me that justice and healing do not come easily. Even if the court found the suspects guilty and sentenced them to life imprisonment, I still had to deal with my own feelings of anger and bitterness. It took several years to realize that sometimes all the justice a victim needs is an apology from the offender, an acknowledgement from the rest of the community/society that something wrong and awful happened, and the assurance that such a thing will never happen again.  This is a revised version of a longer essay that appeared in Wajibu (Vol. 24, No. 4, 2009), a quarterly journal “of social and ethical concern,” published by Gerald J. Wanjohi in Nairobi, Kenya. It is reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. When she wrote this essay, Doreen Ruto, MA ’06, worked for the USAID Office of Transitional Initiatives in Nairobi as a monitoring and evaluation officer. She now teaches at Daystar University, using a peace curriculum that she developed with fellow teacher Emmanuel Sayiorry, MA ’07.

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A Department of Corrections inmate chats with Howard Zehr, who has done considerable restorative justice work within prisons.

What have we learned?

At the outset we tried to convince some seemingly skeptical schools to sign up for the training. While they consented to the training, they did so reluctantly and ultimately the restorative action program there never successfully took root. A lot of time and money wasted to no avail. The experience taught us to go where we are invited and welcome. // CATHERINE BARGEN // author of Educating for Peacebuilding

Restorative justice is fragile. It hinges on people taking determined steps to relentlessly pursue their healing despite the pain it may bring. It challenges us to growth, to imagine beyond the current status quo and to take the creative risk of feeling and acting in a different, yet deeply courageous way. // CARL STAUFFER // EMU restorative justice professor

Always start by building relationships, by working in partnership with others. // DAVE SAUNIER // director of Central Virginia Restorative Justice

I spend 30 to 40 percent of my time in a typical workweek researching grants for funding, writing grants, reporting to grant-givers, and otherwise focusing on fundraising. I had not expected to be doing so much of this type of work when I was getting my master’s degree in conflict transformation, but unfortunately it is an absolute necessity. This field does not yet have clear streams of funding. // JENNIFER LARSON SAWIN // executive director, Communities for Restorative Justice (Mass.)

“Restorative justice is basically common sense – the kind of lessons our parents and foreparents taught. This has led some to call it a way of life. When a wrong has been done, it needs to be named and acknowledged. Those who have been harmed need to be able to grieve their losses, to be able to tell their stories, to have their questions answered – that is, to have the harms and needs caused by the offense answered. They – and we – need to have those who have done wrong accept their responsibility and take steps to repair the harm to the extent it is possible.”

How did we start from zero? We did research on the indigenous system of restorative justice called jirga, and I wrote a book on it. I then arranged for the first international conference on restorative justice in Pakistan. I started talking about the similarities and differences between jirga and RJ in the media, NGO and UN forums. I re-wrote Howard Zehr’s Little Book on RJ for the Pakistan-Afghan context and circulated it widely. I wrote a short play for [Pakistani] TV on RJ. I made it clear that I am doing RJ the Islamic way. And then donors started approaching us… // ALI GOHAR // founding director of JustPeace International, based in Pakistan


peacebuilder spring/summer 2011

It’s common sense

—Howard Zehr, PhD, is professor of restorative justice at EMU. He previously served 19 years as director of Mennonite Central Committee’s Office on Crime and Justice. With the publication of his seminal book Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice (1990), he became a pioneer in the field of restorative justice. Zehr received his PhD from Rutgers University, his MA from the University of Chicago and his BA from Morehouse College (as its first white graduate). Zehr blogs at, which receives up to 1,700 visitors per blog posted. PHOTO courtesy of Howard Zehr

The world needs more leaders working for peace and justice. Please help CJP educate, train and nurture promising new leaders Join us in realizing our vision to develop leaders who will create a just, peaceful and secure world.

Women leaders in peacebuilding met at EMU in June to discuss how CJP can support women in the field

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Peacebuilder Spring/Summer 2011 - Alumni Magazine of EMU's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding  

Peacebuilder magazine from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University looks at peacebuilding issues and activi...

Peacebuilder Spring/Summer 2011 - Alumni Magazine of EMU's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding  

Peacebuilder magazine from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University looks at peacebuilding issues and activi...