Using Restorative Justice for faith-based hate crime

Published: Thursday, December 1st, 2022

This is a blog by our Campaigns and Communications Manager Meka Beresford.

With rising hate crime in the UK, including religious hate crime, there is an urgent need to find new approaches to strengthening community interfaith relations.

Current responses to faith and race hate tend to emphasise prosecution and improving ‘hard’ security measures. Whilst there is a need to protect victims, there is also an urgency to support them and their communities to cope and recover in the aftermath of crime.

As part of Interfaith awareness week and Restorative Justice week, Why me? partnered with Faith Belief Forum to begin conversations about how we might begin to address faith-based hate crime in a way that prioritises healing and moving forward.

On November 18th, for Interfaith awareness week, faith leaders from various interfaith organisations gathered at the Faith Belief Forum’s offices to participate in a Restorative circle. Why me? director Lucy Jaffe shared knowledge on Restorative Justice, and alongside FBF’s director, Phil Champaign, began to discuss with faith leaders how Restorative Justice might begin to meet the needs of the communities they work in.

The knowledge shared amongst the faith leaders at the first of our two partnered events set the stage for the second event taking place in Restorative Justice week, in which Why me? invited an expert panel to discuss themes that came out of the first event.

The panel, which included Ali Amla from Solutions not sides, Stephen Silverman from Campaign Against Antisemitism, and Razwana Begum from the University of Singapore, addressed three questions:

What are the needs of faith communities in regard to tackling hate crime?

Our panelists highlighted the need for inter-faith communities to move past the ‘tea and samosas’ surface level of understanding. A shared, deeper understanding of each other’s faiths can enable us to examine prejudices that may be held behind close doors, and begin to tackle hate crime at the root of misunderstanding.

In addition to increased education about faith, our speakers identified a need for faith communities to feel safe and to trust that the justice system will support people if they are harmed because of their faith.

How can we use Restorative Justice to meet the needs of those communities?

Our speakers highlighted the importance of victims feeling empowered and safe if engaging in a Restorative process following an instance of faith-based hate crime. Once this safety is ensured, our panel agreed that Restorative Justice could be used as a platform to address the victims’ needs and promote awareness and education.

This could take place through restorative circles, in order to give communities the opportunity to build resilience, foster empathy, and allow for individuals’ voices to be heard.

Is Restorative Justice a good solution for faith-based hate crime?

Restorative Justice is an opportunity for humanisation and empathy. Not an easy get out. It’s a real opportunity for deeper learning.

Our speakers explored the need to develop restorative strategies to repair the harm caused to individuals and communities by faith and racially motivated hate crime. This strategy should look to address not only past harm, but seek to reduce the likelihood of future harm.

Importantly, our speakers stressed that we cannot wait until the harm is dome – a systemic approach needs to be adopted to end hate crime, and Restorative Justice could play an integral role in the building of a response to this issue.

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