by Nava Bearson
Fortunately for all of us, UNICEF has created an online version of the foundational text of RJ in the US, The Little Book of Restorative Justice, by Howard Zehr, founder of the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice,Distinguished Professor in the field and prolific writer on an array of RJ-related issues. This version was created in collaboration with Ali Gohar, expert on the link between RJ and the jirga of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and founder of Just Peace Initiativesin Pakistan, to reflect a more universal sensibility that would feel appropriate to readers in, say, Pakistan, Ali Gohar’s home country.
The book is based on the premise that, as a movement to implement RJ grows, it will take different contours and attach to different agendas. But as long as the core principles of RJ are maintained, so will the “integrity and creativity” of RJ. As a result, this little book functions as a basic, yet profound discussion of the philosophy and practice of RJ for people new to the field.
One note: some students have objected to the use of the term “Eastern culture” in this book. It should be noted that this is the language of Pakistani writer Ali Gohar, (as is all the language in boxes that were added to the original text) not Howard Zehr. His use of the term “Eastern culture” appears to be a shorthand for discussing cultural contexts that are outside the purview of the original text, which is consciously written from a “North American” cultural context. Ali Gohar also refers to “high context cultures” and “traditional societies” to contextualize RJ in multiple settings.