Finding a place in restorative justice – Georgia State University

If you’re passionate about restorative justice, Atlanta’s Georgia State University is interested in hearing about the work you are doing.

A few years ago, Georgia State University created an online clearinghouse on restorative justice. I’ve been exploring it for a couple of years.  It’s an outstanding resource.

Carolyn Benne, peacemaker, GSU, restorative justice

An avid advocate for Restorative Justice, GSU’s Carolyn Benne calls for input from restorative justice practitioners for the website.

Carolyn Benne worked with GSU’s law school and the school of social work, using a combination of federal funds and foundation grants, to make this project happen.  GSU’s I.T. sharpies helped her with the mechanics. No doubt, Carolyn drew on her business, legal and organizational skills to navigate the inter-departmental politics and launch the site.  Her multiple degrees from Duke University probably came into play, too.

The site has been around awhile, and now it’s time to beef up the base and get serious about the business of Restorative Justice in the southeastern U.S.

The intent of the GSU website is to enhance and strengthen the RJ field by:

  • Sharing knowledge;
  • Explicitly seeking opportunities to connect people and scholars with one another;
  • Exposing users to both knowledge and programmatic activities that might spark creativity, broaden applications of RJ principles and improve RJ practices; and,
  • Offering a social networking activity that strengthens connectivity among RJ people, scholars, and those seeking restorative justice information, especially in the Southeastern US.

Recently, Carolyn Benne wrote to supporters:

“We would like to establish a core of at least 50 initial entries so that we can distribute the site more broadly and have some actual “substance” to share. [Editor’s Note: the site always has included plenty of substance.]  We’re starting with people like you, whom we’ve worked with before, so that we know that the foundation on which we are building will be strong.  Our objective is to form communities of practice and initiate scholarly work from the connections made on the site.

Carolyn Benne, GSU, restorative justice, peacemaking

Georgia State University (GSU) hosts a valuable regional clearninghouse for restorative justice.

A crying need in the restorative justice field is to create a solid database of research which demonstrates the effectiveness of restorative practices as compared to the more harsh practices of the punishment-oriented criminal justice system.

As a reader of, it’s possible you’re not professional practitioner of restorative justice.  But chances are high that you want to help build a structure for peacemaking and restorative practices.  Search your mind and share this message with any professionals who might want to join the GSU network. These might include counselors, lawyers, social workers, law enforcement officers, ministers or teachers. Or even parents and coaches who routinely handle conflicts and want to handle them better.  Consider asking someone to submit an entry.

As Carolyn writes:

It’s very easy to submit an entry.  Just go to the site:, and click on the “share” tab in the upper right corner.  The instructions are right there.  You don’t need to write very much.  A few lines with your perspective are all we’re looking for.

If you have ideas, or would like to learn more about building an outstanding resource for restorative principles, please contact Carolyn.  Here is her contact info:

Carolyn G. Benne
Director, CNCR
College of Law
Georgia State University

Georgians and southeastern U.S. residents have an amazing resource in GSU and in Carolyn Benne.  I hope you will send her your support!


‘How to Settle the Fight Over Some Guano-Covered Rocks’

So reads a headline in the International Herald Tribune, (“the Global edition of the New York Times”) on September 23, 2012.

Reporter Mark McDonald takes a semi-humorous tone in his story of the raging territorial conflict among  China, Taiwan and Japan.  By any standard, the uninhabited real estate is hardly picturesque or post card quality.  As McDonald reports, the islets in disputeare little more than remote shards of guano-covered rock.”

In any mediation or peacemaking project, it’s probably not wise to ridicule the parties or belittle the claimants.  Still, “guano-covered rocks”?   From my comfortable distance of many thousand miles away, living in a culture neither Japanese or Chinese, it’s easy dismiss this as a meaningless, petty dispute.

Not so, according to the combative Asian neighbors.  The claimants say the islets are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and natural gas reserves.  Other analysts view the dispute differently:

The real dispute over the islands is not about oil, gas, sea lanes or fishing rights. Instead, the prevailing emotion is a leftover bitterness from the war, combined with the persistent image of an insufficiently repentant Japan. As the analyst Daniel Sneider told Rendezvous.  “It’s not about territory. It’s not about these rocks. It’s about much, much more. It’s identity, first and foremost. It’s pride.”

As the U.N. General Assembly met this week in New York, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Japan and China to “let cool heads prevail.”

China traces its land claim as far back as the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). This week, Japan stepped up its campaign to win the support of the global community for its claim on the islands.

Even when it comes to “remote shards of guano-covered rock,” disputes are deeply real to the parties involved.

Camp David Accords, signed 33 years ago by Israel and Egypt, now seem like a quaint memory


President Jimmy Carter (center), Egyptian Prime Minister Anwar Sadat (left) and Israeli PM Menachem Begin (right) sign Camp David Accords at White House on March 26, 1979.

Today, they’re a distant memory — Middle East peace talks, sort of quaint.  On March 26, 1979, 33 years ago, Israel and Egypt signed a Peace Accord at Camp David, Maryland, at meetings convened and actively conducted by then President Jimmy Carter.

Earlier, on September 17, 1978, Israel and Egypt had signed two agreements, the first between Israel and any of its Arab neighbours. The Camp David Accords were negotiated by the Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat under the mediation of U.S. President Jimmy Carter at the government retreat at Camp David, Maryland.

The documentary below is not a polished mainstream network production, but an example of a Texas student’s history fair submission.  (Seat-of-the-pants peacemaker.)

The peace treaty that Israel and Egypt eventually signed on March 26, 1979 closely reflected the earlier agreements hammered out as the Camp David Accords in September of the preceding year at the presidential retreat in Maryland.

Egypt and Israel had technically been at war since Israel’s founding in 1948, and Israel had occupied the Sinai Peninsula (Egyptian territory) during the Six-Day War of 1967.  War had again broken out in 1973 on the Jewish Holy Day of Yom Kipur.  The Accords had their origin in Sadat’s unprecedented visit to Jerusalem — the first visit ever by the chief of state of an Arab nation to Israel –on November 19 through 21, 1977, to address the Israeli government and Knesset (parliament) on the subject of peace.

The treaty formally ended the state of war that existed between the two countries, and Israel agreed to withdraw troops from the Sinai Peninsula in stages. The treaty also provided for the establishment of normal diplomatic relations between the two countries. These provisions were duly carried out, but Israel failed to implement the provisions calling for Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza areas.  The conflict involving these territories continues to this day.

Menachem Begin’s decision to participate in the historic peace process was largely unexpected.  As Israel’s first elected right-wing prime minister, he was hawkish in his views toward Egypt and Israel’s other Arab neighbors.  His decision brought him the contempt of his conservative constituency.

Anwar Sadat was later assassinated by fundamentalist army officers on October 6, 1981. His risks for peace cost him his life.

In the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt, the foundation of the Camp David Accords was placed in jeopardy.
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Egyptian public anger towards the Jewish state mounted after Israeli troops, in pursuit of suspected militants, inadvertently shot dead five Egyptian border guards, leading to a riot on September 9, 2011 at the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

In mid-September 2011, the new Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf suggested that the 32-year treaty could be revised, which prompted disbelief in the Israel.

“The Camp David agreement is not a sacred thing and is always open to discussion with what would benefit the region and the case of fair peace,” Sharaf told Turkish television. “We could make a change if needed.”

In light of the dramatic changes in much of the Arab world, and the reluctance of the U.S. to put its reputation on the line by risking a new round of failed peace talks, the anniversary of the Camp David Accords seems like a quaint memory from long ago.

[pullquote]‘The last thing President Barack Obama, or his possible Republican replacement, would want is yet another costly military engagement in the region.’[/pullquote]Added to that, the current 2012 presidential campaign in the U.S., dominated by candidates’ attempts to outdo one another in their support for Israel, raises questions about the ability of the U.S. to serve as an honest broker.  Current discussions are more focused on preventing Iran from developing its nuclear capacity, and on preventing Israel from launching a pre-emptive strike against Iran, or on weighing the global repercussions of such an attack by Israel.  Efforts to negotiate Palestinian autonomy or an end to new Israeli settlements on disputed territories have taken a low place on the agenda.

The nature of American influence in the Middle East has significantly changed since the late 1970s.  Several of the repressive regimes the U.S. supported have been toppled since the Arab Spring, and the newly emerging governments are not as amenable to American influence. A new round of Camp David talks may not be practical or appropriate, but the U.S. still has a great interest in seeking peaceful relations in the region.  The last thing President Barack Obama, or his possible Republican replacement, would want is yet another costly military engagement in the region.

Where will the next peacebuilders emerge?

Next year in Paris? Amman, Jordan? Doha, Qatar? Jerusalem or Cairo?

Please share  your thoughts in the Comments section below.
















Peace Corps Day, March 6: Did you serve as a volunteer?

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March 6 officially commemorates the founding of the Peace Corps by President John F. Kennedy on March 1, 1961. The anniversary is observed each year on the first Tuesday in March. I was a young boy when JFK was President, but I knew his administration was doing exciting things. I clearly remember hearing about the Peace Corps, thinking I might want to volunteer someday. (I also remember fantasizing that I would be an astronaut, as I watched every NASA launch on our black and white TV.)

In my college years in the early 1970s, while friends a few years older than I were fighting in Vietnam or deciding how to respond to the draft, I knew two guys (upper-class members) who chose to enlist in the Peace Corps as an alternative to war. Soon, that option was closed as the draft lottery was adopted and deferments ended, for the most part.

I clearly recall this: friends who chose the Peace Corps were not at all opposed to serving their country in difficult settings. They just couldn’t see themselves in the fog of war in southeast Asia. 

Later in life, in the mid-1980s, I met a therapist, Bill Gillaspie, who served as stipended facilitator of a weekly support group for people living with AIDS, which met at St. Luke’s, a downtown Atlanta Episcopal Church. Soon after I met Bill, I learned that he had served two terms in the Peace Corps in the Philippines. He is a few years older than I, so he had the option of choosing Peace Corps service instead of fighting the country’s war of the moment. His skills, talents and passions would have been wasted on the battlefield, but they blossomed and flourished in the Peace Corps.

When Bill talked about his Peace Corps experiences, his face would light up. True, he never could bring himself to eat rice after subsisting on it for years in rural areas of the Philippines, but he often reminisced about the delightful people he met while serving. Among other duties, Bill taught English as a second language. The ability to speak English was seen as a pathway out of poverty, and he worked alongside the very poorest of the Filipino people. If he had served a third term, I believe he would have found a way to serve in Thailand.

Bill went on to earn a Master’s degree in Social Work at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. He might well have chosen the same path without his Peace Corps experience, but his academic education was enriched immeasurably by his years in the backwater towns of the Philippines. He often said so in various ways.[pullquote]If you served in the Peace Corps, please share your experiences under the Comments section.[/pullquote]

A bit later on, in the late 1980s, I did a little fundraising consulting work for a journal called Seeds, which focused on root causes of world hunger.  (This happened many years before the advent of the Millenium Development Goals. Who knows, perhaps they provided some of the Seeds for the MDG movement.)  The core organizers of Seeds consisted of Peace Corps volunteers who had served in the African nation of Burkina Faso.  Their powerful experiences in Africa led them to return to Atlanta’s suburb of Decatur and launch a journal to continue their efforts to address world hunger. One of their members went on to serve as mayor of Decatur. (If you click on the Burkina Faso link, you’ll quickly see it is not a country where Americans readily adapt.) Many of today’s peacemakers, mediators and negotiators, and many who devote their passion to a range of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods once served in the Peace Corps. [pullquote]Many social workers and community organizers, and not a few clergy, took their first steps in peacemaking by volunteering to serve in the Peace Corps. Others served at home in the U.S. in the VISTA program (Volunteers in Service to America). The woman who serves as my parish’s treasurer comes to mind.[/pullquote]

I believe the impulse to work for peace, understanding and community still exists powerfully in Americans of all ages, perhaps especially among the young. I am grateful for a visionary young President 51 years ago who saw that peace begins with relationships of mutual respect and support, and that we have to build peace if we hope to experience peace.

Each year, approximately 20 undergraduate students from Boston College pay their own way to come to Atlanta’s southern suburb of Morrow, Georgia, to perform a variety of community service jobs.  My parish, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, helps host them while they are here, providing several meals and arranging a few fun activities for them.  We enjoy our time with them because they are such a positively oriented group of young people.  My parish consists of many people who have been (and are) active in social causes, and they are encouraged to see another generation of practical idealists join in building a “beloved community,” as Atlanta’s Dr. Martin Luther King would have said.

At times, the Peace Corps has removed its volunteers from countries torn by warfare, such as the African nation of Rwanda.  When conditions permit, volunteers are deployed again.

This postcard from Morocco is viewable at the Peace Corps website.  On this day of commemoration of such an important peacebuilding enterprise, please share this posting with friends who might want to volunteer.

If you served in the Peace Corps, please share your experiences under the Comments section.

Rotary International Peace Fellowship celebrates decade of sending peacemakers around the world

The story of the Peace Fellowship program of Rotary International is an encouraging response to the violent attacks of September 11, 2001. This video features one recipient, followed by a listing of outstanding recipients of Rotary fellowships.

Be sure to click on a link to their full stories at the end of this posting.

(Editor’s Note: If this video does not load, please click your browser’s Refresh or Reload button. If the video is stuttering, close other browser windows first. Then, make sure you have the latest Flash Video software installed.  This is what Vimeo tech support told me, and it worked.)

Shelter For Peace from Rotary International on Vimeo.

Shortly after the Twin Towers fell in New York City, Rotary International launched its first class of Rotary Peace Fellows. As the program celebrates its first decade of service, more than 590 fellows have gone on to build peace in their communities and nations, and  across international lines.

“Today, these alumni are settling border conflicts in West Africa, analyzing development aid at the World Bank, briefing U.S. generals on peace-building in Afghanistan, crafting legislation to protect exploited children in Brazil, and mediating neighborhood disputes in New York City, among many other career paths devoted to peace,” according to a recent report from Rotary International.

While embers in the ashes of 9/11 were still smoldering, Rotary International  responded to the attacks by funding a peace fellowship program designed to spread peace around the world.

Among the outstanding recipients of Rotary support in the past decade are:

An elections monitor – Richelieu Allison 
A Killing Fields survivor – Path Heang 
A general’s adviser – Kevin Melton 
A reality teacher – Cameron Chisholm 
A consultant –  Zumrat Salmorbekova 
A neighborhood mediator – Rochelle Arms  (who focuses on Restorative Justice at New York Peace Institute)
A recruiter – William Daniel Sturgeon
A Sudan peacemaker – Josephus Tenga 
A child defender – Katia de Mello Dantas 
A human rights lawyer – Francesca Del Mese 

Read the impressive stories of these Peace Fellows at the Rotary website.
(For reasons I don’t understand, the site often loads slowly.)

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A call to peacebuilders — ‘Let’s shake things up and peace out’

Sometimes a fellow writer sums up my hopes and goals so articulately, I have nothing else to add. Brad Heckman does precisely that in his posting today.

I wish we in the peacebuilding community could really shake things up, and truly awaken the public to mediation and other nonviolent conflict response approaches. I most definitely felt the ground move beneath my feet when I learned that there is a better way of dealing with conflicts…a way that meant neither giving up, nor giving in. One that promotes assertiveness and improves understanding and heals relationships.

I’ve posted before about how we get it wrong in getting the word out. And while we’re not a unified, standardized, professionalized field, we peacebuilders — mediators, conciliators, facilitators, conflict coaches, violence interrupters, trainers, arbitrators, appreciative inquirers , nonviolent communication practitioners, etc. — are nevertheless a movement. A scattered, diverse, motley movement, but a movement nonetheless.

Let’s shake things up and peace out.

Writing about the tremors that shook his home city, New York, Brad reflects on the street scene he encountered when he exited the subway on Tuesday.  It reminded him of a Japanes monster movie scene.  It’s worth a click just to see the artwork he chose to accompany his post.

Brad Heckman is CEO of the New York Peace Institute.


Evangelical Leader Offers a Hopeful View of Interfaith Dialog and Solving Global Problems

Unfortunately, religious zealotry often fuels the fires of conflict around the world. In a refreshing counterpoint to this reality, the Rev. Richard Cizik offers an optimistic assessment of the role of religious leaders and faith communities in forging peace through understanding.

Ultimately, interfaith dialogue is about reaching common ground to solve the world’s problems, says the Rev. Richard Cizik, of The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, and throughout the world religious leaders and religious communities can be seen leading the way.