Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Retribution / Revenge / Justice

The background to this blog is very personal making it difficult to write. Other blogs that I have written have focused on issues but this involves a personal reaction to tragic events, the murder of a nephew in New Zealand. It is times like these when personal values and convictions really stand the test.

If you have read some of my previous blog entries, you may know that I promote a pacifist and a reconciliation stance. How do these stand up in the face of such a personal tragedy?

Since the death of my nephew, we have received two reactions. These are to seek revenge or to hope the murder is caught, locked up, and the key thrown away. Neither of these options are acceptable in my belief system. But neither is the act of forgiveness without reconciliation. The offender has breached the laws of the land and they do need to see the impact of what they have done and repent and be reconciled or redeemed but more importantly, we and society need to understand and learn what we might have done that may have brought someone to a point where murder is an option. We too may need to repent and seek to be reconciled. I am also conscious of another tragic event that has happened here in the UK that is also headline news that potentially offers warnings about the direction in which society is moving.

I have just attended a weekend in which we looked at the many faiths that exist in the world. There is a lot of commonality as well as glaring differences. As I left the weekend, my thoughts were on Stephen Covey's (1990) fifth habit “seek first to understand … Then to be understood.” I have often wondered what would happen if this was applied to international relationships. But such an attitude equally applies in these tragic events. Because we feel hurt and violated,we want the offender caught and judged (i.e. justice seen to be done) but unless we seek to understand why these events happen and address the social issues that shape people's attitudes and behaviour, we can not expect to see a better society.

We (society, the wider audience) should not assume that it is all the offender's fault and it is they alone that need to change. We also bear the responsibility and need to consider how we interact with those around us. Are we too busy securing our own future or pushing our own views that we fail to hear the cries for help or the struggle to survive of others?

Rather than seeking revenge or eye for an eye justice, I want to see equality issues addressed and the messages of rejection eliminated (i.e. real justice enacted). We need to be seeking wholeness / shalom for all and not simply peace and security for ourselves. To achieve this, we need to hear the cries from the heart of those who feel oppressed or rejected or who are struggling to survive. Let us listen in the tragedies of life and learn.

Shalom – Go in God's peace and fullness.


Covey, S. R. (1990). The seven habits of highly effective people. New York: Simon and Schuster.

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