Justice and generosity
NOTE: the readings referred to throughout this study are from John Steward’s book “From Genocide to Generosity.” It’s available in paperback and Kindle format from Amazon
To prepare for this session, read the thoughts of Munyeli on pages 109 -111; about Gacaca on pages 118 -119; and Nsabiyera on page 84 – bottom half.
Read our agreements to feel safe and free. Which items on the list help me respect others in the group, even when I disagree?
Group sharing: How am I today? What has shifted in me or what change do I wish to see in me?
What interested me from the readings for this session?
Group: read from the middle of page 25 to the end of page 26.
Discuss the most challenging moments for Josephine. How is this encounter opening up the possibility for justice?
In pairs or threes, read the sections Educating prisoners on pages 112- 113 and The Gacaca Process on page 116.
Discuss: How do these four words contribute to justice?
i. Truth-telling ii. Confession iii. Apology iv. Compensation
Watch this short video of Vincent speaking a month after receiving forgiveness from Jean Paul.
Discuss: What is difficult in confessing?
Why was it hard for him to accept Jean Paul’s offer, even after Vincent had written a confession while in prison?
The Parable of the Bicycle. Read page 98 and the top paragraph of page 99.
Discuss: How does this develop my understanding of restorative justice?
Michael Lapsley has yet to receive justice for the wrong done against him, so how does he cope, and how does that help me?
Thinking about justice:
A. Two hands of forgiveness. I learnt this idea from both Josephine and Mama Deborah. A physical response means that my body language adds strength to the words: I hold out my left hand, palm up with fingers pointing towards the offender and say, I have forgiven you, you don’t need to ask for forgiveness – I have let go of my bitterness and my right to take revenge.
Then I hold up my right hand so the palm faces the other person as police do to signal ‘STOP’. I firmly insist: but what you did was wrong and I want to know what you will do to restore something of what was lost.
This is the moment; often it is the only opportunity, where the victim can personally challenge the offender. At the top of page 99, see how Michael Lapsley would do this and observe how his words are ‘I’m OK, U’r OK’.
This confronting without violence is the opposite of the idea of turn the other cheek, which seems like saying ‘I’ll accept more humiliation from you’. [This non-violent concept is clarified by Walter Wink, whose work can be found on the web. Search for Walter Wink and turn the other cheek.]
There is good reason why I must be careful not to minimise forgiveness or offer it too quickly. I need the right moment to engage with the offender, confirm my choice to forgive and make clear the challenge of restorative justice.
B. Two feet of justice. What does this action look like? It pictures repentance, apology and restitution.
The offender stops running away from the person they have hurt; one foot turns 180 degrees; they now face the person they offended. Then the other foot steps forward towards the person while they make apology and offer to restore something of what was lost.
I saw this at work in Bembereza (page 115) and Musabyimana (pages 123-124). Bembereza arranged for Delphina to have his car as a kind of compensation; Musabyimana made a door for the house of Buhanda’s sister as an expression of his desire to return something for what was lost.
Naturally a car or a door is hardly compensation for the death of a loved one – yet they are a symbol of confession and contrition. After their years of being in jail, then rejected by friends after their release, neither man had much he could contribute. This was as generous as they could be at the time.
Remember too the ‘compensation’ that Mama Deborah accepted (page 91), when she received and adopted the young man who confessed that he was the one who took the life of her son.
Get into pairs: practice these two postures with words and actions. Doing and saying it helps us feel decisive about the Two hands of forgiveness; two feet of justice.
Reflection. What stays with me today? What am I feeling now?
What action or decision do I need to take?
Preparation for the next session: Read Musabyimana’s story on pages 122-124.