Restorative Justice Can Change Lives

Rev. Chris Griffin is Assistant and Youth Pastor at First Baptist Congregational Church. He is also a CRS leader with the Reclaim Campaign. At the July 24, 2014 Reclaim Campaign public meeting with Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans, Rev. Griffin testified about the need to create partnership and called for commitments to restorative justice practices that can help prevent violence in our city.

Once again I stand before you, the member congregations of CRS, partner organizations of the Reclaim Campaign, the press, and elected officials as a herald, another voice that seems to cry in an urban wilderness about violence in our city and communities. Violence which births from domestic abuse, dysfunctional families, gang warfare, drugs and other sources. 

Once again I stand before you saddened, frustrated, angry, and tired. Tired of hearing about an Independence Day weekend where 85 people were shot and 14 killed. Even this past weekend 39 people were shot, 2 were killed. One of those killed was a member of my church, an 11 year-old-girl named Shamiya Adams.

Shamiya became a member of our church as a result of our outreach ministry to gang members and drug dealers in the West Garfield community.

Shamiya was a student at Melody Elementary School. She loved to dance and spend time with her neighborhood friends. She even looked forward to joining our praise dance ministry this fall.

Though she joined our church in December 2013 she'd been with us for the last 3 years. Our children's church pastor, Rev. Danny Jones told me he was excited for Shamiya because a spark had begun in her understanding of who and what Jesus meant to her. It was beginning to show in her attitude and disposition in children's church. Even though she was only 11 years-old she was an example to others simply by the way she acted during service.

In a few days Shamiya will be eulogized. Once again we'll see flowers, teddy bears, t-shirts, tears, and sorrow. I don't know about you.... But I'm tired and I know there are others here who are tired. Tired of marches, tired of vigils, tired of words and speeches from pastors and politicians without anything real behind them. We want to see action, we want to see movement. The reason we're here today is because we believe change can happen when communities and judges come together and commit to real partnership and action.

Many of you have heard the saying, a definition of insanity is when someone does the same thing, over and over again, expecting a different result. Maybe I represent the epitome of insanity by returning to another podium, crying out that something must change, that we all must do something. Maybe I'm insane to believe it will change.

But yes, I believe things CAN change. I believe through restorative justice practices lives CAN be changed, the judicial system CAN bring about change, that churches and other organizations CAN change the course of lives. I believe the culture of violence CAN be stopped. Our faith must make us fearless, our prayers must make us proactive.

So I ask you to pray for the family of Shamiya Adams. Pray for the 5 little girls who were in the room with her and witnessed the unthinkable violence of a little girl struck down by a stray bullet to the head. Pray for all our communities. And pray for our meeting tonight. Pray that restoration comes about through our efforts and the efforts of our court system and that we have the courage and conviction to bring real commitment and action so that Shamiya's death won't be in vain.

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