Crime has a widespread and long-lasting impact on victims, offenders, and the community. One Mission Society partner ministry Prison Fellowship of Colombia promotes healing for those affected by crime through its restorative justice program, Sycamore Tree.
Based on the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who agreed to repay the people he had cheated, this project brings victims into prisons to meet with offenders. Prisoners come to a full understanding of the effects of their crimes and discuss what it would mean to take responsibility for their actions. Victims and their families are also afforded the opportunity to offer forgiveness.
OMS partner, Lacides Hernandez, president of Prison Fellowship of Colombia, tells of one prisoner who recently completed the program. He had been involved in the murder of seven people, whom he secretly buried. However, after participating in Sycamore Tree, he wanted to help bring closure for the families of the seven victims by helping them recover the bodies of their loved ones. He called the authorities, who came to the prison. As a result of his action, the bodies were recovered for the families. This is very important in a country where many people have simply disappeared over the years.
Sycamore Tree emphasizes relationships, accountability, human rights, healing, and transformation. It gives victims a voice, lowers the rate of repeat offenses, and offers a powerful example of the application of biblical principles to social problems.
Painting by James Tissot, late 1800s. (Brooklyn Museum/Wikimedia Commons)