Saturday, July 30, 2011

Government Minister Praises Ecumenical Criminal Justice Forum

Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, Lord (Tom) McNally has praised the enormously important role of the Norfolk Ecumenical Criminal Justice Forum.

Speaking to the Forum at a meeting hosted by the Bishop of Norwich on July 26, Lord McNally said: “A group like yours has an enormously important role; by coming together to share experiences from your “day jobs”; by contributing to thoughtful and informed debate; and by trying to discern the best ways of helping those in your care.”

Addressing the forum, which brings together a wide range group of people engaged in the criminal justice system from judges and magistrates to ex-offenders and volunatry sector partners, Lord McNally, said: “I welcome the fact that the Ecumenical Criminal Justice Forum provides time and space for a range of practitioners in the criminal justice system to meet to exchange views, and discuss imaginative solutions to some of the problems local people experience on a day to day basis. These are times of great challenge and change for all of us..a measure of ourselves as a just and compassionate society is how we treat and aim to rehabilitate those who break the law."

Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords, Lord McNally, went on to address the Government’s current programme of reforms of sentencing and legal aid, exploring issues relating to penal reform, prisoner reparation, youth justice, reforms of the legal aid system and restorative justice.

Having spent the afternoon looking at how police, probation and other agencies in Norfolk have led the way in its' adoption of restorative approaches relating to criminal justice, anti-social behaviour and community mediation, Lord McNally commented that "Restorative justice has an important part to play, but only so long as it is used appropriately, and that interventions are of sufficiently high quality and there are sufficient safeguards in place for victims. Our aim is to introduce a framework for best practice at all stages in the criminal justice system. Restorative justice is not a soft option… Many offenders find the process demanding and tough. We require offenders to take an active role in repairing harm, acknowledging the impact of what they’ve done and facing up to the consequences.Only those working within local communities understand the extent to which different types of crime are prevalent, and local justice requires flexibility in the kinds of disposals that are available.

Paying tribute to the dedication and vision of those involved in the criminal justice process, Lord McNally thanked those present for their contribution and highlighted the role played by prison chaplaincy teams making a real difference to the lives of prisoners, staff and the wider community by encouraging personal change and rehabilitation.

Echoing Martin Luther King's vision of a“the beloved community” – an activism that moves beyond securing individual rights to a broader understanding of building a just and compassionate society for all people,” Lord McNally concluded his address by calling for more dialogue and more partnership working and an extension of the work and vision of this ecumenical criminal justice forum. "A just society is an inclusive one… It’s about achieving a cultural shift in people’s attitudes and thinking. That applies just as much to the offender as to the victim; to the criminal justice professionals as much as to the media commentators; and to faith groups and churches as much as to those of no faith.”

Forum convenor, Rev Simon Wilson commented:
"The criminal justice forum has been one of the most encouraging and exciting projects that I have ever had the privilege of being involved in. It brings together a wide range of people working hard to make our communities cohesive, safe and inclusive places and we are grateful for Lord McNally's support and encouragement."

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

2011 chaplaincy conference

Report of Inter-disciplinary multi-faith chaplaincy conference May 2011
The annual Inter-disciplinary multi-faith chaplaincy conference organised by Good Work, in partnership with Norfolk and Waveney Churches Together, took place recently at Trinity United Reform church in Norwich. Well attended, as always, the event brought together chaplains from a variety of contexts-including police, hospital, prison, local authority or education settings-from a diversity of faith communities including those from Christians, Muslims, Jewish and Sikh traditions. The event also brought together a variety of different models of chaplaincy-some full-time, others part-time or sessional; some paid others voluntary. The resulting gathering showed how increasingly important chaplaincy is as a dimension of the mission and ministry of our faith communities in a changing contemporary and cosmopolitan culture.

After a generous welcome from the Bishop of Norwich, showing the high regard and gratitude that church leadership has for the commitment and contribution that chaplains make to the institutions in which they serve and the wider community. Marie-Charlotte Remy Macaud from the Faith Matters project talked about recent work exploring the role of the Muslim Chaplain in public sector chaplaincy and in particular the understanding of community leadership through chaplaincy. Professor Paul Ballard, a well known academic theologian, explored the inner and outer formation of the modern chaplain and their place in the wider church.

The afternoon sessions were more practical- Jenny Kartupelis from the East of England Faiths Council examined the wider context in which chaplains operate: the pastoral and practical factors arising from public sector cuts and restructuring and their prominent place in any “big society”. David Capey from the East of England Faiths Agency outlined some of the resources available to chaplaincy teams to help them explore multi-faith aspects of their work, including the pastoral needs of the diversity of faith communities present in Norfolk.

The chaplains also spent time reflecting on how to evaluate chaplaincy, where chaplains find their own needs met, what support is available and how chaplains can work together. Chaplains often feel isolated, so this mutual encouragement and dialogue is important. Chaplaincy is at the cutting-edge of the presence and engagement of faith communities in the uncertain, apparently secular, post-modern world in which we find ourselves. We have much to celebrate and be proud of.

Rev Simon Wilson, June 2011
Social and Community Concerns Co-ordinator, Diocese of Norwich
County Ecumenical Officer, Norfolk and Waveney Churches Together