To Act Justly and to Love Mercy and to Walk Humbly with Your God
In our work to promote Restorative Justice, we are present to two realities:
first, love, more than any other virtue, is the motive and agent for growth in people’s lives, and
second, the single most absent reality in the criminal justice system is love.
Since healing, reconciliation, safety and accountability occur only in the context of a community that has as its centre, love, and since faith communities are charged with a mission to transform the world through actions that find expression in love, we believe faith communities need to be involved in transforming the justice system.
If love is to be an effective agent of change in the criminal justice system, we need to understand the vision of justice proposed by a restorative approach. Questions that seek a response to the key dimensions of the harm done by crime can help us discover that vision.
In his book, Changing Lenses, Howard Zehr identifies six guiding questions that can help clarify our vision and our response. When a criminal act occurs, he suggests we ask:
Who has been hurt?
What are their needs?
Whose obligations are these?
What are the causes?
Who has a stake in the situation?
What is the appropriate process to involve stakeholders in an effort to address causes and put things right?
These question can be contrasted with those asked by traditional criminal justice:
What laws have been broken?
Who did it?
What do the offender(s) deserve? 
Most people agree that the traditional form of justice has merit but it is important to recognize that this model of justice has the law as a central focus. By contrast, the point of departure for a restorative approach is relationship. In a restorative process the first question asked is, “who has been hurt”? The primary question is not the issue of a broken law but rather concern about relationships that have been harmed.
At Micah, we invite faith communities and others into the work of restorative justice because we recognize that love provides an indispensable foundation that allows us to ask the relational questions suggested by Howard Zehr. Faith communities also manifest a deep respect for law and this balanced approach to law and love make real accountability and healing possible.
By Peter Oliver, Micah
- Zehr, Howard. Changing Lenses – A New Focus for Crime and Justice. Scottdale PA: 2005 (3rd ed), 271.
- Zehr, Howard. The Little Book of Restorative Justice, Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2002.