Trevor Stinson

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Nelson Mandela's approach to justice

So often, we—”good” people, even Christians—seem to know of no better justice than to seek the blood of our enemy. We think that the only way to overcome violence is with better violence. And we think that the only way to set a life on the right course is to lock a person in a cell where their life will have no course at all. We care more about punishment than about making things right. Look to the late Nelson Mandela for a better example:

If there were any question as to whether President Mandela would pursue a course of reconciliation or revenge, the answer was given when he invited his white jailer to be his honored guest at his presidential inauguration.

But what would the future hold for South Africa? Many assumed there would be a bloodbath of retaliation. Many assumed that now it would be time for those who had so long been denied justice to exact their revenge with violent retribution. But that didn’t happen. South Africa instead made a peaceful transition from a racist regime to a stable democracy. It was nothing short of a miracle. But how was this accomplished? It was accomplished through prophetic imagination — through daring to imagine a new and creative way of moving beyond the wrongs of the past. Not the way of exacting revenge and not the way of ignoring justice, but by the way of restorative justice; a new way which gave room for both truth and reconciliation.

Read Brian Zahnd’s post for the whole story.