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Strategies for, or approaches to, Spiritual Justice

 

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Active Participation

Active participation by people in community groups and in learning and understanding the world, and in taking action to further peace in practice is the key to making our world a better place.  This action includes making financial contributions to organisations which work toward peace and justice.  For people who are lacking a focus or stimulus / impetus / motivation for practical study or learning and activity, I recommend that you look for a non-violent group to work with (which could be a church group, or another group, which you find by looking in local newspapers, libraries, telephone directories, or on the Internet, etc.) and that you organise yourself through self-reflection and planning.

It is important to be part of a group to have a greater effect, and to feel effective.  However, the foundation to this will be your own values, interests, desires and energy levels.  Self-reflection and planning will require you to list those issues or areas of most concern to you, then brain-storm ideas for research or study and for other specific actions which you might take.  This could include contacting groups or organisations in your local area, or studying at a library, studying through the Internet, or purchasing and reading books.

Stimulate yourself by watching the television news and documentaries and reading newspapers and journals/periodicals, etc.  Keep a hole-punched A4 Lecture/Exercise book handy in order to write notes of interest for you to use later, as memory can be a sieve!  Set up an Actions File utilising a two-ring binder or Lever Arch binder with file dividers for different areas of concern and/or actions.  You can fill this with print-outs of information from the Internet, your own notes, photocopies of newspaper items, etc.

Challenge yourself to learn about at least one area in great detail and share your knowledge with as many people as you can, with the aim of informing yourself and others, so that you and others can take informed non-violent action.

 

Encourage others to actively participate in furthering peace in practice.

 

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative Dispute Resolution ("ADR") refers to any means of settling disputes outside of the courtroom. ADR typically includes arbitration, mediation, early neutral evaluation, and conciliation. The Stitt Field Handy Group offers negotiation, mediation and arbitration services for organisations who wish to avoid recourse to traditional litigation.  For more information on the principles involved, and to start your own research or investigation on the subject/issue, click on one of the links below.

If you are interested in an ADR workshop within Australia, click here.    [ www.adr.ca/au ]

If you are interested in an ADR  workshop in Canada or the United States or Europe, click here.
    [ www.adrworkshops.com ]

Search for Common Ground is a wonderful organisation which has been working to transform the way the world deals with conflict - away from adversarial approaches and towards collaborative problem solving. Their  philosophy is to understand the differences and act on the commonalities. Search for Common Ground is engaged in a long-term process of incremental transformation, pursued on a realistic scale and with practical means, and works with local partners in many countries to find culturally appropriate means of strengthening those societies' capacities to deal with conflicts constructively.

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Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP)

Please click on one of the following links for more information.

 

Civil Disobedience

( From Chris Rohmann, The Dictionary of Important Ideas and Thinkers, 2002.  Arrow Books, U.K  )

The intentional, nonviolent defiance of a law, or of a government or its agents, regarded as unjust or illegitimate.  Civil disobedience is often undertaken in obedience to what is perceived as a higher moral law.  The term also implies an open, usually public act, risking and often inviting arrest, in order to arouse public awareness or to exert pressure on the civil authority.  It is allied to the strategy of nonviolent (or passive) resistance, in which the superior force of the government is confronted and, it is hoped, eventually won over or worn down by the superior numbers (and righteousness) of a multitude.

The term, civil disobedience, was coined by Henry David Thoreau in his essay "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" (1849).  Mahatma Gandhi called it satyagraha (from the Sanskrit for "truth" and "persistence") and mobilized masses of people in a 30-year campaign of noncooperation with British rule in India.  Martin Luther King was inspired by his Christian faith and by Gandhi's example to lead the American civil rights movement in a strategy of nonviolent confrontation and civil disobedience aimed at exposing the wrongs of southern discrimination and segregation.  The tactic sought to appeal to white people's humanity by meeting violence and hatred with humility and love, and to pressure the US government to intervene with federal power and laws.

 

 

Kitten and Puppy by www.Indianchild.com

Photograph reproduced by kind permission of www.Indianchild.com

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Lobbying

Lobbying is an important form of advocacy and public policy participation, which involves trying to influence the development or finalisation or amendment of specific items of legislation (Acts, etc.) or of other actions.  Direct lobbying is when an organisation or an individual attempts to influence legislation or actions by stating facts and one's position or wants, or urges a legislator or significant person to support, oppose or otherwise take action on a bill, proposed legislation, or significant issue.

Writing letters is one of the oldest forms of campaigning and is still one of the most effective ways for individuals to communicate their concerns.  Amnesty International (AI) has worldwide appeals accessible on their regional web-sites, whereby through lobbying influential people, you can help individual victims of human rights violations.  (Go to the Resources section of this Web-site for links to their web-sites).  If you are interested in writing letters, you can join Amnesty International's "Urgent Action Network." This network, of which thousands of members belong, is used when speed is vital.  If you ask them, AI will help you write letters to politicians in an effective manner, i.e. using the right protocol, etc.

Peace Brigades International (PBI) has an "Emergency Response Network", whereby members are urgently asked to lobby influential people on human rights issues.  Appeals sent by post, fax, email, telex or telegram organised by groups such as AI and PBI can save a prisoner from harassment, torture, medical neglect or even death.

A community form of lobbying is to write letters to your State or National or local newspaper.  The general consensus in Western Australia is that only approximately one in ten letters (or 10%) of the hundred or so received daily by the Editor of the major newspaper, "The West Australian" are printed.  Letters to the Editor need to be topical, as well as concise and well-written, i.e. with sound grammar and spelling, and if possible, entertaining.  Issues which a citizen considers urgent or important to be addressed may be raised through the Letters to the Editor.  Click here for examples.

The organisation "Charity Lobbying in the Public Interest" (CLPI) aims to inform charities in the U.S.A. about the importance of lobbying in achieving their missions.  In the United States of America, lobbying by tax-exempt non-profit charitable organisations is legal under the Internal Revenue Code.  CLPI provides an instructional guide "The Nonprofit Lobbying Guide" which answers questions about lobbying in the U.S.A. to change legislation.

 

Letters to the Editor:   

Letters need to have your full name, as well as your telephone number and address.  Some newspapers let you send letters to them by email, while others have a form on their website which you use to enter your personal details, as well as enter or type in your letter.  In these cases, there is a button marked SUBMIT, which you click on to submit your completed form and letter online to the newspaper.  Please see the On-line Newspapers section of the Resources page for the websites of both Australian and non-Australian newspapers to send your letter by email, or to submit your letter online.

 

Government representatives:

Please see the Other Organisations section of the Resources page for access to official government web pages ordered by country.  Once you go to the website for a particular country, you can then search for contact details (i.e. email address, postal address, or fax number) which you can use to send your letter.

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Nonviolence

( From Chris Rohmann, The Dictionary of Important Ideas and Thinkers (2002).  Arrow Books, U.K )

A moral belief and political tactic, often going hand in hand:  the belief that human life (or all life) is sacred and must be respected in all circumstances, and the tactical use of nonviolent action to overcome a powerful oppressor.  Nonviolence is firmly rooted in religious and ethical philosophy.  In Buddhism and Janism especially, the "no-harm" principle of ahimsa holds that violence harms its perpetrator as well as its object, interfering with the cycle of karma, and bringing bad karma to the violent.  Early Christians, following Jesus' teaching of universal brotherhood, were personally nonviolent and refused to serve in the Roman Army, but in the Middle Ages, Christian pacifism largely gave way to the "just war" doctrine, which justified war under certain circumstances.   Secular philosophical grounds of nonviolence are generally humanist and cosmopolitan, regarding human life as intrinsically valuable and all humanity as one.  Nonviolent resistance to an unjust system as a means of social or political change is often based on the conviction that love and "speaking truth to power" can overcome hatred and that committing violence harms the spirit.  Nonviolent resistance, also called passive resistance, can take the form of demonstrations, and civil disobedience or acts of noncooperation, such as boycotts and strikes, non-violent obstructions such as sit-ins, and other types of civil disobedience.

 

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 Restorative Justice

Retributive justice is about punishment, while restorative justice asks how do we restore the wellbeing of the victim, the community and the offender.  Restorative justice is a term which usually refers to a range of informal justice practices designed to require offenders to take responsibility for their wrongdoing and to meet the needs of affected victims and communities.  It has been described as a process whereby all the parties with a stake in a particular offence come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of an offence and its implications for the future.

Biblical justice was restorative, as was justice in most indigenous cultures, for example, in pre-colonial New Zealand, Maori people had a comprehensive system of restorative justice that used Maori legal processes.   Evidence shows that long prison sentences and increased prison numbers do not lower crime rates.  Because of how society and the current criminal justice system works, often poor and disadvantaged people go to prison (because they are imprisoned for lesser crimes which they carry out to overcome or reduce frustrations and hardships) and many stay there because they do not have the financial backing to lodge comprehensive appeals.

Prisons are "universities of crime" whereby new criminal skills and plans are made and recruits are made, and many people in prisons are brutalised, despite the pre-conceptions of numerous people that all prisons are luxurious abodes and that all inmates are afforded outrageous benefits (why don't those people go and visit a few prisons to see what they are really like).   In prisons, peoples actions are restricted with their lives being automated, their senses are under attack with noise and confusion, and often violence, physical and/or mental/emotional, is encountered within prisons.  Furthermore, drugs are used in prisons, the operation of prisons is very expensive, and statistics (such as recidvism or repeat offending rates) show that the threat of imprisonment is not always a deterrent.


The retributive criminal justice system has many shortcomings, and if people are truly concerned with reducing crime and reconciling law-breakers, whom may very well, through a turn of fortunes, one day, be someone they know or even themselves, then restorative justice must be given precedence.


 An excellent book on restorative justice to read is:

Consedine, Jim (1993).  Restorative Justice, Healing the Effects of Crime.  Ploughshares Publishing, New Zealand.  176 pages, ISBN:  0-473-02992-8.

 

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