Article courtesy of The Messenger (www.emconf.ca/Messenger)
Written by Kent Dueck, ICYA Director
The Christian Church has done so much for victim advocacy over the years, as it should. It feels like we need to be talking about how we relate to offenders as well though.
Richard Clouthier, from a local radio station, called me at home a few weeks back. “I need a recovered car thief who is over 18 and articulate for tomorrow morning at 9,” he said. “That is a tall order, Richard,” I replied. “Much better than the 15 minutes notice I gave you last time.” An upgrade indeed!
For those of you who don’t listen to CJOB, it is a talk show station noted for its tough-on-crime stance. So I was worried that the callers, who love to hate car thieves, would run roughshod over her. The fact that she was a girl seemed to disarm the callers. The fact that she hadn’t stolen a car in two years helped as well. I could feel an awkward tension.
Callers were used to talking about criminals, not to them, which works better if you want to just get angry about some faceless force out there like car thieves. Richard was careful with her. When the “Why did you do it?” question came, Rochelle answered in a measured tone. “My parents were drinking and I was trying to get their attention.” Two callers chided her and lamented the wonderful days of the “paddle.”
Richard turned to Rochelle and asked on both such suggestions, “Rochelle, would that have helped you?” Her reply was a quiet “no” to both callers. An aboriginal woman called in and praised Rochelle for her life change and for taking responsibility in her life. Rochelle was absorbing that like she had been desperate to hear it.
On that day Rochelle spoke and people listened. Rochelle felt bad about what she had done, especially now that she had a car herself. But what do you do? You can’t turn back time. Redeeming it is what she wants to do now.
As a community we made progress that day. Whenever you shut up and listen, whenever you sit close enough to a person-even a person that has done a lot of wrong-you have your position challenged. Because we heard Rochelle, we ended up loving someone we were used to hating. Richard gave her a hug as we left the studio. “That’ll be in my top ten this year,” he said.
As we walked out of the building Rochelle spoke as if only a small war had been won that day: “Well, I guess the whole world isn’t out to get me.” And all because someone listened to a quiet girl with a strong voice.
We always seem to be reading about another horrific victimization out there and, understandably, it raises our ire. On the other hand, what on earth was Jesus doing when he talked to the thief on the cross? Furthermore, He also prayed for his persecutors while they were right in the middle of His crucifixion.
I wonder what would happen if the Christian community began to get closer to all the pain out there. What would happen if Christ-followers moved closer to people and their stories? I’ll bet we would see something beautiful happen within us, and maybe all around us.
Kent Dueck is Executive Director of Inner City Youth Alive in the North End of Winnipeg, Manitoba.