Bound up in a web of intricate mutuality

Echoing the sentiments of Fania E Davis seeking to integrate racial justice and restorative justice, and Richard Rohr who emphasises the need to integrate our activism and contemplativism and Carolyn Myss who talks about the shift from the love of power to the power of love, we are bound up in an intricate web of reciprocal mutuality.

Systems that are not rooted in this understanding and that rather foster separation and division will lead to, or rather, are leading to the complete unravelling of our world. If we continue on this path, humanity has little chance of surviving.

And so we are at a crucial time in history where it is imperative, vital (literally life-giving ) that we look to and commit to, not just reforming existing systems, but re-imagining systems that support true justice, the high point of which, is that everyone has what they need. We need to birth new systems in economics and politics, and new legal and social systems.

It is my firm belief, and my commitment, that our work in restorative justice (making things right again), transformative justice (imagining, creating and birthing better systems), and the various methods in alternative dispute resolution like mediation, is part of how we create the next legal system. One that fosters and supports human inter-identity and human inter-relatedness and that also helps to restore humanity to a right relationship with earth and all of her creatures.

Fania E Davis writes about the indigenous roots of restorative justice and the communitarian philosophy of ubuntu which emphasises human inter-identity and inter-relationality with all dimensions of existence-other people, places, land, animals, water, air and so on. This view of inherent inter-relatedness affirms and supports the responsibility we bear to one another. It is quite obvious to me that Africa has the knowledge systems and capacity to build legal systems far superior to the adversarialism of the West that we have inherited and that we can be a significant part of building the future of what justice, and work in building justice looks like and manifests in the future.

Our work is the work of recognition rather than cognition. We deeply resonate with systems that bring healing, restoration and transformation rather than systems that create division and result in winners and losers. We intuitively yearn for systems that enhance human agency rather than fostering way too much power for some and way too little for others. We have a profound and enduring vision for systems that create enough for everyone, not systems that sustain way too much for some and hardly sustain and affirm life for others. The recognition is something of ‘of course, it was always meant to be this way’ rather than ‘oh, this is a novel idea’. Life affirming and life sustaining systems that do not harm should be intricately bound to our reverence for every it of life we encounter.

The next legal system will have everyone participating in the work of justice, of making things right again, of enough for everyone.

And so our work seeks to empower not only lawyers as mediators and purveyors of restorative justice and transformative justice but teachers, health workers, labourers, moms, dads, kids, entrepreneurs, spiritual teachers, faith leaders and all others involved in figuring out how we do life together.

Sheena Jonker