In times of challenge people are looking for leadership
This was the call to more than 500 people gathered recently in Los Angeles to learn more about Restorative Justice
. These were the words of Roderick Hickman (former Secretary, CA Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation), who presided at symposium on “Crime, Punishment and the Common Good in California” on August 3rd & 4th
at Loyola Marymount University. Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration were the key themes as victims of crime, former offenders, government leaders, religious leaders, restorative justice advocates and students gave testimony to a new way of looking at crime and punishment.
The event began Friday night at LMU’s Sacred Heart Chapel. After opening prayers from Archbishop Jose Gomez and Bishop Richard Garcia, a moving musical memorial took place for victims of crime. The emcee of the event, Roderick Hickman, then introduced the keynote speakers, Azim Khamisa and Ples Felix Jr.
Mr. Khamisa eloquently told his story. His only son was murdered by Mr. Felix’s 14-year old grandson. The two men met after the crime; both had a desire to turn their grief into something good. Mr. Khamisa eventually met with his son’s killer and expressed the sorrow he and his family experienced from such a profound loss, but also offered his forgiveness. This forgiveness transformed Mr. Felix’s son, and gave him hope. Since then, the two men have shared their story with over a million people, testifying to their friendship and the power of forgiveness. Their foundation, the Tariq Khamisa foundation, is dedicated to ending youth violence.
Restorative Justice is a model that looks at crime and punishment in a new way: human harm caused by crime must be healed by a criminal justice system that is more restorative than punitive; victims and survivors of crime, including offenders who were themselves victimized and others harmed by crime, can never be healed only by focusing on the punishment of offenders.
The event dramatically continued on Saturday with Roderick Hickman boldly calling out, “Government leaders, are you here?” “Yes!” those attendees responded. “Religious leaders, are you here?” “Yes!” “Victims of crime, are you here?” “Yes!” “Former offenders, are you here?” “Yes!” These groups and other concerned citizens engaged one another throughout the day in a variety of ways.
The day’s event included question-answer sessions and panels on policy making, community organizing, best practices and emerging models that are working to promote Restorative Justice, as well as a panel featuring victims and offenders. Small group table discussions brought diverse voices together, sharing dreams, ideas and plans.
The call to action at the end of the event included this pledge:
I believe that violence is not a solution to any problem.
Yo creo que Ia violencia no soluciona ningún problema.
I believe that every person is endowed with a sacred dignity.
Yo creo que todo ser humano es dotado de una dignidad sagrada.
I believe that every person is capable of changing, healing and being restored.
Yo creo que toda persona tiene la capacidad de cambiar, sanar, y ser restaurada.
I pledge to respect the dignity of every person.
Yo me com prometo a respetar Ia dignidad de todas las personas.
I pledge to overcome violence with love and compassion.
Yo me com prorneto a superar la violencia con amor y com pasión.
I pledge to accompany and support anyone affected by crime on their healing journey.
Yo prometo acompañar y apoyar a todos los que hayan sido afectados por el crimen, en su jornada de sanación.
I pledge to be an instrument of restoration, of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Me comprorneto a ser un instrurnento de restauración, de perdón y de reconciliación.
A follow-up session for this diocese is planned for Wednesday, November 7 at Ryan Pastoral Center in Fresno. If you are interested in helping plan or attend this session please contact me at cmuncey@dioceseoffresno or at (559) 488-7474.
To learn more about restorative justice, visit www.restorejustice.com
or see the restorative justice section at the California Catholic Conference’s website www.cacatholic.org
Photo by James Boyd, www.unitedinjustice.org
Detention Ministry Coordinator