10.03.2011

No future without reconciliation, and no reconciliation without Justice!


The Filling Station InsideImage by teresia via FlickrAfter ending my last article with the question of whether it is advisable or possible the reconciliation with offenders, I have been looking for news in order to answer this in an affirmative sense and I found one quite interesting. Briefly the story is as follows:
On the 21th of September when he was 31, Stroman shot an employee of a
Petrol Station in Dallas. Rais Bhuiyan was the man shot by Stroman; he pretended to be dead so as not to be shot again by him. He was not the first or the second victim of Stroman; he had been six days using this personal crusade against all Muslims in U.S. He killed two people before Police stopped him.“Mark Stroman was like many Texans, a strong supporter of the death penalty in the U.S but theory was not enough for him and he took justice in his hands ten years ago to avenge in a very personal way the deaths of compatriots that day of September. So it is very ironic that he was sent to death two months before the tenth anniversary of the massacre.

Death-penalty-mapImage via Wikipedia
Bhuiyan, the Muslim from Bangladesh who survived his attack was fighting to save his life. A week before his execution, Bhuiyan told the Daily Telegraph, he wanted to forgive him, “I am convinced that he was ignorant and incapable of distinguishing between good and evil. If we give him the opportunity to change he can tell his story to prevent crimes like those committed by him. His execution will eradicate a human life but it will not stop crimes of this world. If he continues alive and changes his life is a great challenge but if he dies we lose everything.
People think I am crazy for trying to save someone who deserves to die. There are those who attack my Muslim faith because they say it preaches violence and hatred but that is not the problem, the problem is not the knife, it is the person who wields it. The same happen with religion”.


This case is a typical restorative process with an offender and a victim, and being a serious crime, without any penological benefits for the offender.
I was wondering if the reaction of Bhuiyan is normal or is completely illogical. Many people might think that this guy has the syndrome of Stockholm, because showing this empathy with someone who has done so much damage, remind all of us more a passage from Bible ( turn the other cheek…) than a normal reaction of a human being.


When we know that a crime has been committed we seek for justice, all victims need to feel that justice has been done. But the real trick is to define “doing justice”. Some say there is no forgiveness or reconciliation without justice, but it is not clear, for example Obama said that justice had been done after killing Bin Laden. So can anyone draw the line on when justice becomes payback or witch hunt? And can Justice and reconciliation go hand in hand? Many had it clear, as Mahatma Gandhi said “humanity can only escape form violence through non violence” However not everyone thinks in the same way and as an example: Obama’s statement, the president of a civilized and developed country in which there is still death penalty.


As I said for many victims, a priority is “to feel that justice has been done” and that means knowing that a person is guilty of a crime and he has assumed his responsibility, with Restorative Justice, It is more likely to happen because offender will be able to hear and listen face to face the damage he has done to another human being. This is not easy to see in the courts, where the judge will only tell the offender that he has done something wrong and harmful…
And for the other members of community, what is justice? “....more punishment…”. “…not out of jail”. I agree that offender should be punished, especially in a very serious crime, but I don’t feel safe when I see an offender going to jail without having assumed responsibility for his behaviour or without at least having the opportunity to see the damage he caused is real and had its consequences. Why do I not feel safe? Because if his offender go out of prison, it is very likely that he will be committing new crimes and perhaps with more anger and violence because he knows he can go to prison and what it entails, so he thinks he has nothing to lose. This puts all of us in danger and makes us “potential victims”.


Of course, not all offenders will want to change but the history shows that some will do it, in the story I have been talking about, the real lesson is how a murderer who hated Muslims ends up by loving and putting his life in the hands of one of his victims. The fact of having executed him has not served at all and Bhuiyan, his victim, had understood it very well because if we react with violence to violence, this spiral is not broken and we lose two lives that could have been useful for community (the life of victim and the life of offender).


In this case, Bhuiyan started with his desire of revenge and anger but he ended with the need of forgiveness and reconciliation, these feelings although contradictory are two points in the same road to an emotional recovery of all victims, especially the ones of serious crimes.
For this guy, knowing that his aggressor had repented and had assumed the damage he had done, was the turning point in his journey to overcome the trauma of the crime and for him it meant that justice has been done.
In this story we haven’t lost the victim, he has been reintegrated into community as a productive man with many good things to share with, especially after being a survivor of a serious crime. He was able to reconcile with himself and with offender, and it has been possible not because he is too dumb or good but because it is helpful for him.


He was able to see that being anchored in the crime doesn’t help him and as the mother of my last article said: “the crime you have suffered can not be the focus of your life”.
Although all of these sound strange it is good for the healing of victims, and we have the duty to provide processes so that we can help victims because doing that we also help ourselves. Who knows if at some point in our lives we can be in the same position? No one can ensure that we will never be victims of crimes.
We can’t be able to recover and rescue the offender of this story to reintegrate him into society as a new man. It is shocking to see how Bhuiyan knew that if they executed him, we will lose all the good things we could have given to community in the future, because in this case Stroman was also repented.


He was deprived of the opportunity to repair or restore the community something good to compensate at least in part, the bad and harmful actions he had committed. Bhuiyan, the victim, spoke about what he could have done, especially telling his story and experience to prevent other offenders to follow his way.
This guy is absolutely right because we have lost many lives the two victims and the offender, Stroman. His execution was not justice, but it was an act of revenge. The most important and encouraging of this new is that without giving up the traditional retributive justice that punishes the offender for the crimes committed, we can try a restorative justice that as a first and a primary objective can deal with victims, to promote material and emotional recovery and if viable the reconciliation with offender because as we have seen this will help to heal their wounds so as to continue with their lives.
Secondary Restorative Justice gives offender the opportunity to change. Again it is clearly that not everyone will want to do it but if we can get at least few of them doing it, I feel satisfied because I particularly think that we are returning to society a human being that from this moment will try to erase the damage he did, with good things and actions.
After all of this, I have it clear that reconciliation with offender is a very personal option and depends on the parties, victim and offender but of course, it is highly recommended for victims, because it is helpful in the long way to recover the normalcy in their lives.



Originally Posted on our Spanish Sister Site by Virginia Domingo  at http://cj-worldnews.com/spain/

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