RESTORATIVE JUSTICE PARADIGM IN PHILEMON AND ITS RELEVANCE FOR THE NORTHERN NIGERIAN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
This research work seeks to interpret the text of Philemon in an attempt to complement the ideological foundations of restorative justice. This it intends to achieve through the lenses of the New Testament exegetical framework in order to explore possibilities of how the movement for restorative justice values might be more understood biblically. The foundation of mainstream restorative practices as conceptualized by Howard Zehr hinges on his Three Pillars of Restorative Justice which seeks to offer an alternative process to the punitive recourse of the criminal justice system. This study proposes by enquiry a phenomenological sociology approach embedded in a Socio-Rhetorical interpretive methodology in regards to the social phenomena of the text of Philemon. This is with the view of exploring possibilities at establishing a paradigm of restorative justice. The researcher seeks to establish a framework of restorative justice in the text of Philemon and to briefly summarize the essential paradoxes to make clear the parallels and limits to how it will complement the criminal justice system in Northern Nigeria.
Restorative justice, the central concern is not retribution or punishment…in the spirit of ubuntu, the central concern is the healing of breaches, the redressing of imbalances, the restoration of broken relationships, a seeking to rehabilitate both the victim and the perpetrator, who should be given the opportunity to be reintegrated into the community he has injured by his offence. Archbishop Desmond Tutu
It is widely believed that punishment of offenders is a primary factor in the deterrence of wrong or bad behaviour. This however remains improbable in most instances for the Northern Nigeria penal code criminal justice system as such measure have proven ‘futile’ in the prevention of crime. Efforts at reformulating the criminal justice system by legal practitioners thereby punishing the offender to reform him/her and in lieu of dissuading crime, at best seems only in quantifying their knowledge of the Northern Nigerian penal code criminal justice system. This can be alluded to imprint of the British colonial past criminal justice system inherited at independence which is enshrined in punitive justice. The focal point of such criminal justice system is retribution, vengeance and punishment. The human and spiritual concepts of reconciliation, forgiveness, restoration and integration between the victim and offender are not prime concerns. It is against this background that this research seeks paradigm of a complementary or alternative penal code criminal justice system that is transformative rather than punitive gleaning from the text of Philemon.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The penal code criminal justice system in Northern Nigeria is facing huge challenges. Some of these challenges amount to the fact that ease of access to justice from financial, physical and technical point of view is pitiable. This is obvious as institutions that promote justice or law and order such as the police and courts are far from the reach of rustic dwellers which constitute a reasonable percentage of the general populace. The financial cost of accessing these institutions that promote justice or law and order can be high-priced. This is in addition to payments made for administrative procedures and the cost of itinerant to police stations and the courts. Furthermore, this legal system in Northern Nigeria at the present appears to be almost entirely of retributive philosophy, consistent with its roots in British English law.
Crime in Northern Nigerian penal code criminal justice system as obtainable in other criminal justice system of most countries is viewed as a violation or breach of the law against the state. It is an offence against the state which is punishable by the state as it seeks to assign a punitive sentence. Such approach is not intended at restoring the lost relationship between the parties involved and the community in which the crime is committed. It is in this light that the researcher seeks to deduce from the text of Philemon a paradigm of justice that is restorative. Thus for a study that involves reparation for harm done to an individual and community as that of the text of Philemon, several questions are raised which this research will attempt to answer such as: Who has been hurt from the act? What are the needs of the victims, offenders, and communities? What kind of justice should be meted out? What should justice encourage? What are the obligations and whose are they? How should justice be judged? The outcome of this research will attempt to reshape the way in which crime is seen and, as a result, the way in which justice is done in Northern Nigeria.
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
Restorative justice around the globe is gaining acceptance as an alternative justice system by several nation’s criminal justice systems especially in the West. Most documents on criminal justice are of Western origins. These includes those written by Africans for the African context which are written against this backdrop. Some of these documents are theological framed writings arguably assumed to be written for practitioners or mediators especially those with theological commitments. Howard Zehr’s Changing Lenses and Christopher Marshall’s Beyond Retribution, both of which are published by Christian publishing houses, frame a theological argument. Marshall indicates that he is attempting to lay a theological foundation for Christians engaged in critique and reform of the criminal justice system. Zehr begins his chapter on biblical justice with a statement that, for Christians, biblical justice is a more important model than that of community justice. Some of the theologically framed writings are less than clear about the audience the wish to address.
In addition, majority of documents on restorative justice are largely becoming detached from its theological foundation. There is the dare need for a judicial model that takes theological concerns seriously and frames a theologically paradigm that is construed from a Christian theological framework. This is in view of the fact that restorative justice is an important expression of biblical justice, and as such represents the way justice ought to be, whether or not one makes the case theologically. The hub of this research will be threefold. Foremost is to look at the need for justice as enshrined in the text of Philemon. Furthermore, being that restorative Justice is multi-levelled and multi-faceted, it will be important to deduce from the text the level and facet. Finally, to understand its application in Northern Nigeria thereby making available distilled guidance and validation of the restorative justice paradigm as gleaned from the text. This dissertation will seek the role of restorative justice in complementing the penal code criminal justice system in Northern Nigeria, taking the epistle of Philemon as case in point.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The Penal Code criminal justice system in Northern Nigeria is in many ways a story of failure. It is a story of punishment that can scarcely achieve its intended goal, of practices not in tandem with the stated goals of the system, of offenders who recycle through the system repeatedly, of victims confused and ignored, and of professionals who feel unable to respond creatively to the needs of those caught up in the system. This is a far cry from restorative justice which recognizes the fundamental humanity of all those involved in the system, whether victims, offenders, advocates, or decision makers. Thus a paradigm of Restorative Justice could complement or provide an alternative avenue to do justice in new ways.
This dissertation research will explore the paradigm of restorative justice from the text of Philemon. This will be evaluated contextually bearing in mind both the contributions and limitations from arduous research in Philemon and contemporary mainstream restorative justice paradigms. The philosophical and exegetical approaches proposed to be used in this study takes on a multidisciplinary approach. This is to explore other disciplines to aid the understanding of the research and to expound the worldview behind the text as provided from different frames of references in arriving at a paradigm of restorative justice.
The multidisciplinary approach to be employed in this research, the phenomenological sociology approach embedded in a Socio-Rhetorical interpretive methodology has its own limitations. The approach requires rigorous engagement between disciplines. There is the daunting prospect of ascertaining the philosophical assumptions and implications which should be context determined rather than imposed upon the text. In addition is the meaningful relevance to the models of the human actions under study. Furthermore, articulating the concept of restorative justice from the text in the light of contemporary mainstream restorative justice practices while remaining faithful to the biblical text may be exasperating. The integration between disciplines coupled with the traditional approach and understanding of the text from the perspective of institutional slavery may be unnerving and warrant theological debate in respect of the ‘objective reality’ of the research. Nevertheless, the fact that restorative justice might not be plain sailing from the text does not mean the conceptual framework of the research from the text do not exist.
MY RESEARCH MOTIVATION
My first reflections on issues of restorative justice began in the context of my work as I was invited by one of my congregational members whose son was arrested by the police and locked upon a crime he committed against a family not part of my congregation to intervene in the case. Considering the judicial proceedings of the case led me to wonder whether there might be complementary alternative measures. Thus I have maintained an interest in restorative justice through training work and through close association with organizations working in the field. Having considered the judicial system of Norther Nigeria, I am of the opinion that there is a strong need for a judicial model that takes theological concerns seriously.
The formative stage of mainstream restorative justice seeks to incorporate human and spiritual concepts of reconciliation, forgiveness, restoration and integration between the victim and offender. This system of justice is sometimes referred to as transforming or transformative justice, creative justice, relational justice, reparative justice, healing justice and restorative justice. This saw practitioners in discharge of their duties having commitment to peace that was grounded in their theology. According to Peachey, the earliest development of a restorative model which originated in Kitchener was rooted in the peacemaking of Mark Yantzi’s Mennonite tradition. This is affirmed by Zehr who described their work as an “experimental plot” for testing the ideas about new conceptions of justice rooted in theological affirmations. A series of monographs published opened up the earliest stages of theological reflection about Restorative Justice as a variety of individuals, primarily practitioners, began to look for ways to understand the biblical and theological premises for their work. Since then the movement has grown and spread beyond the borders of North America with several features that are usually framed in contrast to the mainstream criminal justice system. These features were initially outlined by Zehr in Changing Lenses. He synthesizes much of the earlier work and articulates a biblical vision of covenant justice. However, he speaks only briefly of justice in the New Testament with reference to the atonement in order to build an understanding of biblical justice. Several themes pervade these monographs however, there are very few references to New Testament theological strands in these writings which is the focal point of this study.
There are within the broad restorative justice literature a range of specific paradigms and institutional approaches to doing justice that is restorative. These resulting from different approaches emphasizing different objectives with some based upon moral categories where the aim is to shame the offence, while offering forgiveness to the offender; some approaches focus almost exclusively on meeting victim needs; some placing emphasis on widespread community engagement in dealing with underlying problems and issues, of which specific offending is but one manifestation; others are based upon strategic assessment of offenders and events, in which case the aim is to design interventions that best address issues of offender accountability, competency development and community safety. Thus the emergence of models such as Family Group Conferencing through to Circle Sentencing and Victim–Offender Mediation. Nevertheless, most proponents of restorative justice affirm that the intent and outcomes of the process is meant to be primarily oriented towards repairing harm that has been caused by a crime, and this means working to heal victims, offenders and communities that have been directly injured by the crime. This research seeks to articulate what paradigm of restorative justice model is enshrined within the text of Philemon and the context of its social world.
THE TEXT OF PHILEMON
Philemon is notably the shortest and most personal epistle among the Pauline corpus. The epistle of Philemon seems to be predicated upon a conflict of social values within the confines of a household church community. Paul re-examines the institution of slavery within a Christian context in respect of justice for the fugitive slave Onesimus. He must have realized that the Roman norm in respect of a fugitive slave is not compatible with at least the gospel ethos. Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon, but with the desire that Onesimus be restored to him, because he knows that Philemon will not be able to provide the same service. Thus he appears to offer a practically effective paradigm of justice that is restorative.
Paul uses metaphors that mediate the link between text and society. His use of metaphor has ethical implications. This is in view of the fact that believers belong to the community, their individual actions affect the community as a whole. These include those of family relations (e.g. brother, sister, son, father), relations in the workplace (e.g. fellow-workers, servants), legal relations (e.g. prisoner), socio-economic relations (e.g. slave, debtor), and even military relations (e.g. fellow-soldier). Such descriptions imply the existence of a social norm which can be regarded as rules defined as shared expectations of behaviour.
The text of Philemon has received attention from scholars in the area of slavery, forgiveness, reconciliation and the likes however little has been written in relation to the concept of justice enshrined in it. The researcher is of the view that that the text of Philemon presupposes the concept of restorative justice paradigm. Contemporary readers of the text may find it difficult at face value to relate the text with the concept of justice. In the researcher’s opinion this might be largely due to either the inability of understanding the rhetoric of justice or the failure to appreciate the social dynamics of the Graeco-Roman world in which justice played so important role in shaping society.
Patzia in “Philemon, Letter To” in The IVP Dictionary of the New Testament, cited Winter who attempts to draw judicial parallels in terms of form and language as used in Paul’s day to explain certain phrase in the epistle of Philemon. He considers the use of such terms as ????????…???? in verse 10 to be a formula used in legal petition; furthermore, he is of the opinion that ???????? as used in verse 12 should be better understood as a referral term to refer Onesimus case ‘to the proper higher authority;’ ???????? as used in the text according to Winter introduces the idea of a legal binding partnership between Paul and Philemon which he affirms has more of the elements of a ‘consensual association.’ Winter made available to the world of scholarship a fresh guide to the understanding of Philemon from a legal perspective. His legal perspective tilts towards the concept of criminal justice system procedure as an institution. However, his focus is not explicitly on restorative justice which is the hub of this dissertation.
CONTRIBUTION TO SCHOLARSHIP
Beyond the immediate academic audience for which this dissertation will be written, I am interested in making a contribution to my own community of practice. My profession as a clergy primarily in working with church congregations has over the years actively engaged me in a restorative justice mediation practice. Thus the dare need for a paradigm for doing restorative justice. In addition, I wish to add to the body of knowledge of those restorative justice practitioners who bring to their practice at least a nascent sense that their work is somehow connected to their Christian faith and who wish to draw the connections more clearly. This will be extended to those practitioners who, while not connecting their practice to a faith stance, are theologically literate and interested in the ways in which theological concepts might inform their practice.
The researcher wishes to undergo library research and where necessary internet materials will be consulted.
THE TEXT: The Greek Bible (the UBS Greek New Testament 4th edition) will be use by the researcher as the major Greek text for the study. This is not to say that other Greek texts may not be used as at when necessary.
PHILOSOPHICAL APPROACH AND EXEGETICAL METHOD: The difficulty imposed upon this research work is the insufficiency of information and the minimal guidance on what philosophical approach and exegetical methodology will necessitate the investigation of such a social phenomenon of justice that is restorative. It is worth noting that restoration has been largely uninformed by hermeneutical philosophy despite increasing prevalence of research in the discipline of hermeneutics. Perhaps as opined by Williams and May there is “a misunderstanding of the relationship between philosophy and social research. Philosophy might have the capacity to illuminate, but it hardly dictates.” Contemporary philosophical hermeneutical approaches in social sciences tend to gravitate towards a phenomenological hermeneutic. Phenomenological sociology is a branch of phenomenological philosophy which uses phenomenological basis via the social sciences to seek to understand how persons construct meaning. A key concept in such a quest for meaning is inter-subjectivity-a process whereby we understand the world with and through others who are the “research objects.” These “research objects” are responsible for the interpretation of their social world based on the system of “relevances” environmentally structured for interpersonal interactions which are the norm in a given context. Thus, Schutz develops a process of ‘typifications’ based on concept models of human actions which he affirms are relevant structures and research objectives. Williams and May are of the view that typifications “are our stock of knowledge of the social world that we continually expand and modify.” This implies that ‘models of human actions’ can aid our interpretation, and hence context dependent phenomenon allows its meaning to become evident. In this research typifications will be based on the models prompted by the actions of Paul, Onesimus, Philemon and the household church community inherent therein the text of Philemon. Such typifications as victim, offender and community will be in the spotlight. Thus the concept of restorative justice paradigm will be considered as given.
The phenomenological sociology approach will be employed alongside Socio-Rhetorical exegetical method of interpretation. Socio-Rhetorical method is another positive attempt to unravel the meaning of a biblical passage. The integration of Social-Scientific Criticism and Narrative and non-Narrative Criticism in the interpretation of the Scripture is referred to as “Socio-Rhetorical Criticism.” Social-Scientific Criticism on the one hand embedded in the “social sciences are used to construct theories and models for collecting and analyzing data, which illuminate salient features of ancient Mediterranean and early Christian society and culture.” Furthermore, it aims to elucidate the structure, content, strategy and intended rhetorical effect of the text within its social context. Narrative Criticism on the other hand, as a branch of literary approach to the interpretation of the Scripture focuses on the formal features of a narrative text as its object of study. Some of these formal features of narrative texts such as the text (the narrative world) which is the means of communication between the author and his recipients; the narrative plot consisting of “a beginning, a middle and an end;” and the narrator’s theological point of view which according to Kingsbury as cited by van Eck “enables one to get at the meaning of both the entire story and each episode within it.”
The need to adequately bridge the “gap in the modern exegesis of biblical texts in terms of attending to both sociological and literary aspects” taking into “account the fact that all ideas, concepts and knowledge are socially determined” has necessitated the Socio-Rhetorical approach to the interpretation of Scripture. Thus according to van Eck, “the socio-rhetorical interpretation of biblical texts can therefore be seen as a combination of a literary critical reading (narrative criticism) and a social-scientific reading of the text, concentrating on the text’s situation and strategy, as well as on the intended communication of the text as social force and social product.” This methodology goes well with the text of Philemon as it reveals Paul’s encounter with Onesimus and the nature of the relationship he has with the recipients of the latter which could be consider a narratology and Social-Scientifically it also reflects a basic familiarity with Greek literacy and rhetoric. Thus the researcher seeks by enquiry a phenomenological sociology approach embedded in a Socio-Rhetorical interpretive methodology to deduce the restorative justice paradigm embedded in the text of Philemon. However, this is not to negate the fact that there may be other approaches which could be used for arriving at the same result in view of the wide range of interpretive interest and results of biblical analysis.
OUTLINE AND ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY
This dissertation on Restorative Justice paradigm in Philemon would be structured into six chapters as thus:
i. Chapter one: a general introduction which spotlights the prominent place of the concept Restorative Justice and set the requisite context for articulating the study problem, the purpose of the study, the significance of the study, the delimitation and limitation of the study, the methodology of the study and the definition of operational term in respect to Restorative Justice paradigm in Philemon.
ii. Chapter two: will focus on an overview of the History of the Critical Study of Philemon and a critical review of selected literatures focused on the text of Philemon and restorative justice. This review will highlight the methodology employed which is responsible for the interpretive interest and results of some biblical analysis of the text. Consequently, this will be followed by the summary of the concept of Restorative Justice in the New Testament for a general overview.
iii. Chapter three: will pay attention to the authorship, historical background, date and place of writing the epistle. Other issues to be considered are the recipients/audience, purpose/message of the epistle and structure, integrity and genre of the text, special issues in relation to the text. The researcher will attempt to present the reality of Paul’s situation and world in the first century C.E through historical, external and internal evidences from the epistle.
iv. Chapter four: will center on a Socio-Rhetorical exegesis of the text based on a lexical and syntactical outline of the text as it deals with the first century C.E Christians’ relationship to the imperial Roman situation.
v. Chapter five: will assess the research findings in the light of the typification of the research objects informed by the judicial situation of the Graeco-Roman world. The purpose of this will be to determine the paradigm of restorative justice from the text and to articulate how this can complement the penal code criminal justice system in Northern Nigerian.
vi. Chapter six will be the summary and the conclusion of the whole study and some recommendations for further study.
The paradigm of restorative justice though not stated in the text of Philemon, but conceptual framework of the pursuit of social justice do inform the research. Conceptually, the text of Philemon though in respect of a fugitive slave appears to offer a practically effective model of doing justice. This is in contrast to the well-structured administrative procedures and the high cost of seeking legal action. It is not punitive in its outlook but rather peacemaking. In addition, it attempts to rather than respond to violation of laws it provides symbolic and practical solution to actual harms. Offenders, victims as well as the community where the offence is committed are inclusive in the judicial process. Thus it is important therefore to examine labels like this of the text of Philemon that lays claim to the restorative method of doing justice.
The expectation of this research is premised upon the fact that the text of Philemon promises a paradigm of doing justice that is constructive and positive than the approach to criminal justice that is retributive or punitive. A paradigm that emphasizes the reparation of harm, restoration and reintegration. The core issue here is that this paradigm might not exhaust the possibly necessary components associated with institutionalized restorative justice system. Nevertheless, it opens up avenue to distinguish within a model diverse approaches and forms in addition to range of reasons to pursue the course of justice that is restorative. It also offers the hope that opportunities will be enhanced for victims, offenders and their immediate communities.
SUMMARY OF DISSERTATION PROPOSAL
Considering the huge challenges confronting the penal code criminal justice system in Northern Nigeria which hampers the ease of access to justice and the almost entire reliance on a justice that is retributive in its philosophy, there is the dare need for an alternative or complementary justice system. A way of doing justice that financially, physically and technically can be affordable and accessible by the rustic dwellers which constitute a reasonable percentage of the general populace of Northern Nigeria. Such judicial model should also incorporate theological concerns and frames a theologically paradigm that is construed from a Christian theological framework with applications for setting the stage for conflict transformation. Hence the quest to explore restorative justice paradigm from the text of Philemon in this direction.
RESTORATIVE JUSTICE PARADIGM IN PHILEMON AND ITS RELEVANCE FOR THE NORTHERN NIGERIAN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM