Where there is pain
Let there be grace
Where there is suffering
For those afraid
Let us be brave
Where there is misery
Let us bring them relief
And surely we can change
I blog in peace. And I blog at the ungodly hour of 12:55am on this Thursday morning. I am not a serial insomniac-far from it. But on the odd occasion that I do wake up in the middle of the night, I go hunting for cake and then it occurs to me that I am a wannabe future paralympic swimmer and so I settle for tea, and I write.
My kids tell me I am weird. So I tell them you get weird-weird and you get cool-weird. And that’s me, cool-weird! “Sheena” has 6 letters and “coolll” has six letters. Co-incidence? I think not.
Anyway, I digress. I am in Johannesburg where we have been running our ADR Program in Mediation and Arbitration. We have an amazing group all of whom I feel honoured to have got to know. I did take Monday afternoon and Tuesday off though, but the group were left in the hands of the dynamic Adam Bright who runs the first two days anyway. With the first few role plays happening on Wednesday afternoon, I was so inspired to see the fruits of Adam’s labour outworking as excellent skills in mediation.
This morning we chatted around justice. For many of us the concept of justice encapsulates a reckoning, a righting of past wrongs, a getting of what one deserves.
Brian McClaren defines justice as “the right use of power” and injustice as “the abuse of power” and he goes on to say that justice has to do with the “right use of power in our relationships with others”.
The Old Testament concept of justice is that the primary responsibility of the power-holders is to mediate God’s justice-to make sure the weak are protected from the strong, that no one is the victim of oppression, and that all have access to the goods of the land needed to sustain life.
The way I see it, if you are a living, breathing, human being, you are to be a conduit of justice. That’s it. Full stop. We all have a role to play.
But as mediators, our role is more direct. We are to be bringers of justice.
What do you mean, Sheena? I hear you say. We don’t pass judgment, we don’t mete out punishment.
To which I respond. Exactly! But we create safe places for individuals to engage in conflict. We nurture authenticity by helping to shut down fear and in so doing free up each party’s narrative. It is in the narrative that the truth is to be found. It is the story that gives birth ultimately to the solution. We shut down fear, we free up the story. We help to restore the template by firstly bringing the parties in conflict back to a position of honour. Just because there is honour, does not mean there is no confrontation. On the contrary! Where honour is restored, confrontation can and does take place. But it is safe. Hearts are protected. And that makes all the difference.
We are to be bringers of justice. We are to be bringers of peace.
And surely we can change
Until next time, peace!
Ps. We will soon be running a series of mini-breakfast seminars (that’s a mini seminar with a maxi breakfast!) around various themes in dispute resolution. Our first series will be around Access to Justice and the Role of Mediation. Our guest speaker will be Wayne Duvenage, founder of OUTA which has taken the e-tolling matter to court. Without commenting on the merits of the matter either way, our view is that no narrative should be muted simply due to lack of funds. If you are keen to attend one of these breakfasts either in Durban, Johannesburg or Cape Town, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will also host other speakers around the theme of access to justice and active citizenry, like Huntley Fyvie of SMSNayber.