Restorative Circles

Two articles in the November 2006 issue overlook a powerful old means of communication that is being rediscovered—face-to-face storytelling in circles (sometimes called “peacemaking circles”). In “Words! Camera! Democracy?” Molly Marsh limits herself to print, broadcast, and Internet media. Reading “Doing the Write Thing” makes me want to tell Julia Alvarez how circles combine art and activism.

As a circle of public school students shares their stories, troubled youth gain self-insight and self-confidence, shed negative shame, receive and give caring, and find a sense of belonging—a healthy alternative to being suspended for behavior problems. Such circles are an art.

In a community conference I facilitated recently, my co-facilitator shared her emotional story of being a victim of employee theft and of reaching a point of truly forgiving the offender—an act that finally broke through “our” offender’s defenses. Such restorative justice practices are not only a way to heal victims and restore offenders to responsible lives. They are a way to build real face-to-face community in our technologically preoccupied society.

Roger Brooks
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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Sojourners Magazine February 2007
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