Restorative Justice and religion

Published: Thursday, July 4th, 2024

This is a blog by our Training and Service Coordinator, Mark Hamill.


Restorative Justice owes a debt to religion. Many of those who first articulated the concept of Restorative Justice in the mid to late 20th century drew inspiration from religion as well as indigenous traditions. Howard Zehr, widely known as ‘the grandfather of Restorative Justice’ and a lifelong member of the Mennonite church, saw in the Biblical concept of ‘Shalom’ the original vision for restorative practice. Translated by Zehr as ‘the rightness of all things’, ‘Shalom’ refers to an anticipated state of holistic wellbeing between people, God and all of creation in which all needs are met and all obligations are fulfilled. More commonly, ‘Shalom’ (or ‘Salam’ in Arabic) is translated simply as ‘peace’. Restorative Justice seeks to bring about peace by focusing on personal and systemic harms, addressing needs and identifying obligations made visible in crime and conflict. This is in contrast to a more retributive approach to justice that is concerned with apportioning blame and meting out punishment.

Beyond the Abrahamic faiths, Hinduism and Buddhism both stress the interconnection and interdependence between all beings, sentient and non-sentient. Such an appeal resonates with the restorative principle that crime and unrestrained conflict hurts everyone. The Guru Granth Sahib, the holy text of Sikhism, teaches that adherents must first exhaust all peaceful means in their pursuit of justice.

It must be conceded, at this point, that the religious texts of the six major world religions also provide material for those wishing to promote a faith-based retributive approach to justice. However, in my experience and that of many practitioners of faith with whom I have spoken, Restorative Justice is entirely compatible with core religious beliefs and values. 

In partnership with the Faith & Belief Forum and Interfaith Glasgow, Why me? will be training Restorative Justice facilitators from a range of religious backgrounds to deal with interfaith conflict in Glasgow and Solihull. In a summer that might possibly see the beautiful game ‘come home’ again to England, Why me? will explore ‘the return’ of restorative practice to local faith communities in both England and Scotland.  

Learn more about the interfaith project


© 2024 Why me? Charity no. 1137123. Company no. 6992709.