Three provinces, eight shows, six workshops and countless meals and conversations later, the Maritimes tour of Forgiven/Forgotten ended on November 2nd, 2014. All that packed into eight days. This is not my normal work. I travel, yes, but spend most of my time meeting with partners, helping build up projects, visiting churches and then back to the office for administrative duties. I’ve never gone on tour with a play, and although I do get involved in community theatre, I’ve never had the opportunity to be part of spreading a message so close to my heart; communities and community members can be agents of healing if we are willing to open our hearts and our doors, wrestle with some tough questions and get our hands dirty.
Before working for the Mennonite Central Committee, I spent six years working in various restorative justice (RJ) organizations. I facilitated RJ processes in schools, prisons, universities and communities and invited people from all walks of life to get involved. I believe that programs and education, while very important, don’t transform people. Relationships transform people, and if we want safer communities we need to stop leaving justice exclusively in the hands of professionals. We must step out of our comfort zones and identify ways to care for those who are hurting, challenging systems and assumptions that support disparity and disconnection.
Forgiven/Forgotten spread that message across the Maritimes, even before the play came to town. In building community partnerships to host performances, we challenged silos and social environments that separate us. In creating space for community dialogue, we brought together people from a multitude of backgrounds to talk about the far-reaching impacts of crime that touch us all. And I hope that now that the tour has finished, we are still examining our own attitudes and lives, asking what in ourselves and our communities fosters injustice, and what we are doing to make things right, to build environments of hope and peace.
-Christina Farnsworth (Maritimes Regional Representative for Mennonite Central Committee)