International Ministries

No Rotten Mangoes!

September 30, 2012 Journal
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Dear friends,

I really thought they might throw rotten mangoes at me. What I was proposing was heretical and, in Costa Rica, illegal.

Forty women and one man had gathered at the Universidad Bíblica Latinoamericana (UBL) from 9 countries of Latin America for a week-long conference on “Gender and Human Rights.”  I was asked to speak on “Domestic Violence and Restorative Justice,” focusing on Peace Circles. In Costa Rica, and in most feminist circles, Restorative Justice methods (mediation, Circles, etc.) are considered to be inappropriate for cases of domestic violence because of the imbalance of power. How can you dialogue with someone who is beating you up? The woman must be protected and the man locked away.

But Kay Pranis (our Circles teacher from Minnesota) had recommended a book by Linda Mills, Violent Partners. A Breakthrough Plan for Ending the Cycle of Abuse.  In it, Linda Mills tells stories of many families for whom the traditional justice system just isn’t working.

She shows how complex intimate relationships are, and how the violence is woven into them in a multitude of ways and for diverse reasons.  She suggests that Peace Circles are a good option for many families because they seek to heal broken relationships, improve communication, call people to assume responsibility for their actions, and together with family and friends, make transformational changes.

So, I presented this to the group and led them through a Circle experience.  They peppered me not with mangoes but with excited questions.  How could they learn more? This, they said, was exactly what they had been looking for in their ministries with families.  An amazing energy was created in the group.

Even though I had intended to model a Learning Circle, the magic of the Circle freed two of the women to tell their own stories, so tragic that the entire group erupted in tears and shock.  The stories of sexual abuse (beginning at 7 years old!), abandonment, beatings, mistreatment, contempt and rejection were appalling.  We talked about the meaning of forgiveness in those contexts, and how no true justice can occur until the aggressor has taken responsibility for his or her actions. I explained the power of Healing Circles to help the victim recover some sense of personhood and dignity.

The UBL is deeply committed to empowering people with the dignity and worth that is our rightful identity as people created in the image of God.  I am very grateful for all of you who have chosen to partner with me, with us, in this call.

Remember that September and October are key months for the World Missions Offering, which makes possible transforming ministries around the world.  I invite you to participate.

Together with you in ministry,


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