[A reminder from a familiar source of a great measuring stick for authority – whether for government leaders or in a small community.]
True authority is exercised in the context of justice for all, with special attention to the weakest people, who cannot defend themselves and are part of the oppressed minority. This is an authority ready to give its life, which does not accept any compromise with evil, deceit, and the forces of oppression. A family or communal authority, as well as having this sense of justice and truth, needs personal relationships, sensitivity in its action and the ability to listen, trust, and forgive. None of this, of course, ecludes moments of firmness.
– Jean Vanier, Community and Growth
[As a strong believer in the Christian roots of Canada’s restorative justice movement, I was dismayed at the way Dalhouse University’s use of a restorative justice process was belittled and dismissed across various media. In their final report, this excerpt suggests that the public also has much to learn from this experience:]
This report also addresses the challenges that participants and facilitators faced in working together in a restorative process. These challenges included significant pressures from individuals and groups both outside and within the university community who advocated for a more punitive approach without an informed understanding of what the restorative process entailed. Both male and female members of the dentistry class reported increased stress due to public debate that was at times aggressive, intrusive and erroneous. Female participants ultimately felt compelled to ask the Dalhousie Student Union, among others, to stop speaking for them without ever speaking to them, while male participants received threats of harm to them and their families via social media. The overwhelming public scrutiny and attempts to influence the process compounded the harms to those most affected, including the women who filed the original complaint.
– from the executive summary of the “Report from the Restorative Justice Process at the Faculty of Dentistry” from Dalhousie University – and kudos to those with the perseverance and courage to go ahead with a restorative process in the face of criticism.
[a second excerpt from SSU Field Notes – this one dedicated to all our great alumni]
Leland: You were talking about how your art fit, conceptually, but then when we met you – those of us that were coming to live here in Nova Scotia – do you think that we alumni brought something of St. Stephen’s University here that you resonated with?
Judith: Yeah, I think it deepened the intrigue, because I was seeing a quality of character and what I’ve always called a “peculiar wisdom” in these people. You guys had a way of relating to the world and to each other that I haven’t seen in very many people. Like the ability to do hard work together, or experience things together. In normal circles of friendships, it was never as tight-knit, or forgiving, or gracious. Or something – there was just a difference in the way you guys related to each other. I think I saw a kind of deeper possibility for relationship than I’d experienced before, even in churches. We’d had a long experience of churches at that point, and what I experienced seeing in you guys was a deeper, cleaner, real-er way of relating.
– Judith Brannen, Nova Scotia artist who became an alumna herself, in an interview with SSU alumnus, Leland Maerz – from SSU Field Notes
[If you’re interested in one of the few remaining “limited edition” copies of SSU Field Notes (printed by Gaspereau Press) you can order one by sending an email to Lorna Jones]
Peace assuredly would pay even larger dividends [than war], but to the wrong people. It is not at all clear how you could make a billion dollars by being peaceable. And so we don’t consider or study the means of peace, or make them available to our leaders. We speak well of peace, we say we want it, we have paid the lives of innumerable other people and unaccountable wealth supposedly to get it, but we seem not to mind, we seem not to notice, that all we have got for so much loss, for so long, is more war….
Of course Christians want to kill the enemies of Christians. How could this not be so when Christians have so often and so happily killed other Christians? But it is remarkable and disturbing that Christians were pointedly instructed by Christ not to do this. In most of historical and institutional Christianity there appears to be a void where should have appeared Christ’s requirement that we should love, bless, do good to, and pray for our enemies, and forgive those who offend us. In order to end war, somebody, some nation, would have to stop fighting. In order to stop fighting there would need to be an alternative, something to do instead. After 2,000 years all Christian nations and most churches have found nothing preferable to war.
Only a few marginal Christians have dared to think that Christianity calls for the radical neighborhood, servanthood, love, and forgiveness that Christ taught. I agree with them, and much against my nature I have tried to make my thoughts consent.
– Wendell Berry, from an interview in The American Conservative
We have much to be judged on when Jesus comes, slums and battlefields and insane asylums, but these are the symptoms of our illness, and the result of our failures in love. In the evening of life we shall be judged on love, and not one of us is going to come off very well, and were it not for my absolute faith in the loving forgiveness of my Lord I could not call on him to come.
– Madeleine L’Engle