In November, I had the privilege of participating in a Restorative Justice Session at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Arlington. Prior to this session, I had only briefly heard about the process, and had dismissed it in favor of more “concrete” methods of justice and retribution for two reasons. First, as a high schooler I couldn’t see myself interacting with a group of adults in such a setting. Second, I believed that our (the group members) experiences would be so disparate, that healing would be impossible.
We began by sitting in a ‘peace’ circle (a custom borrowed from Native American and African cultures), which immediately established a sense of respect and equality between participants. Once the ice had been broken, each member of the circle shared a word that sprang to mind when they recalled a time they had been hurt by another. Responses included “shame”, “abandonment”, and “powerlessness”. The process was then repeated for multiple situations that involved difficulties revolving around human relationships, pain and recovery.
By the end of the evening, I felt a sense of fellowship with every person in the room. Despite differences in age and gender, we realized that our experiences were universal and that pain certainly does not discriminate. The lack of judgement and mutual respect exhibited by all group members was truly inspiring, and I’m anxiously waiting to see Restorative Justice methods applied on a national, and international scale.
Sana Mohtadi is a junior at Arlington High School. She is involved in Model UN, Model Congress, and the Young Feminists Alliance. Sana is also a member of the Arlington Baha’i community, along with her family.