Last updated on November 26th, 2014 at 10:44 am
The United Methodist communications recognizes a national day of Peace with Justice. This Peace With Justice Sunday will be recognized on May 26th. Restorative justice sees crime as more than breaking the law. Crime causes harm to people, relationships, and the community, according to the Prison Fellowship International Centre for Justice and Reconciliation.
The restorative justice process at Hilltop focuses on juveniles who have had their first brush with the law, Brundige says.
The Greater Hilltop Shalom Zone is using its $3,000 grant to begin volunteer-run community-focused mediation and peacemaking programs.
“Community mediation centers are a great way for neighbors to resolve disputes,” says the Rev. Eugene Brundige, a key volunteer leader in the effort.
The director of the Shalom Zone, the Rev. Julia Nielsen, says the goal is not only to have a successful mediation center to help resolve disputes, but also to “usher in a peaceful model of community relations.”
Using mediation to resolve conflict has deep biblical roots. In Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, he wrote: “Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other.” (Colossians 3:13)
“Rather than resorting to conflict, violence, or the courts, people can bring their issues to a volunteer mediator,” Brundige says. Mediators are trained to handle domestic disputes, landlord-tenant issues, and property disagreements.
Shalom Zones are centers for Christ-centered spiritual awakening, peacemaking, and economic and community vitalization. The Hilltop Shalom Zone is a collaborative ministry initiated by eight United Methodist congregations, joined by social service agencies, educational institutions, law enforcement and local business and social service organizations.
Teenage peer mediation is an important element of the program, Brundige adds. Hilltop schools identify students for training as mediators. Hoping to head off violence, they work to resolve disputes between young people.
The Hilltop Mediation & Peacemaking Center, Brundige says, goes far beyond the typical community center. It is also the home of an evolving model of restorative justice.
“The young person will meet with the victim, victim advocate and a trained restorative justice mediator,” he explains. “The mediator will help the parties work out a solution, including restitution.”
As the program evolves, Brundige adds, the juvenile will be referred to one or more of the programs operated by the Shalom Zone as alternatives to gang involvement. There are at least five gangs operating in the west side of Columbus, where the Hilltop community is located.
In recognition of peace for justice, Brundige cites a case involving a young man he called “Luke” where restorative justice principles changed the lives of this individual.
Luke had been convicted of armed robbery as a juvenile. When Luke was released from juvenile detention into Brundige’s custody, he arranged a meeting between Luke and the store’s owner. In that meeting, Luke apologized, and he and the owner made a restitution arrangement of $5 per week until the owner’s loss was made whole.
“’A few months later the owner called me,” Brundige says. “He had decided to hire Luke. As of this day, Luke is employed and married, with a child. He credits that experience with turning his life around.”
On Peace for Justice Sunday, people are asked to give generously or give anytime during the year. Checks can be made payable to your local church. ”Your gift offers The United Methodist Church a voice in advocating for peace and justice at home and around the world.’
To get involved, those interested can contact the Peace with Justice Coordinator in your annual conference.