Justpeace Ethics: A Guide to Restorative Justice and Peacebuilding. Jarem Sawatsky. Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press, 2008.

Justpeace Ethics by Jarem Sawatsky is a valuable addition to conflict transformation literature because it brings together the different emerging fields of peace studies with one common thread: virtues. Jarem Sawatsky began to study this topic as a graduate student at Eastern Mennonite University while he interviewed faculty and students of his program’s two branches: restorative justice, and peacebuilding and conflict transformation. Howard Zehr’s foreword states that a virtues-based approach to justice and peace is surprisingly missing from the literature. This book fills that void by creating an ethical framework for justice and peace, as well as discussing the actual virtues.

Sawatsky believes that justice and peace are intrinsically linked in a value-framework and should be studied as one concept, which he names “justpeace.” The purpose of this book is to explore this justpeace value-framework and to promote the value of applying justpeace ethics to our lives, not only to explicit conflict situations. In the preface, Sawatsky declares that he comes from a Christian-Mennonite worldview and is exploring this inquiry through that lens. This admission is helpful for readers and clarifies the scope and boundaries of this study. Sawatsky, who teaches peace and conflict transformation studies at Canadian Mennonite University, does attempt to reconcile different religious worldviews in his framework, but, rightly so, clarifies that the representatives of those worldviews have the final say on whether their tradition fits in the framework. Though the clarification is appreciated, it weakens his argument that ethics is a common ground for all justpeace endeavors.

The book begins with a justification and clarification of the virtues-based framework and a definition of the actual virtues behind justpeace. The main point of chapter 1 is that justpeace is not only the goal but also the means by which to arrive at the goal. Thus, a particular justpeace process can be judged and evaluated based on the set of virtues established in the framework. The author describes the framework as a web of virtues in three concentric circles. Starting from the inside, the concentric circles and their respective values are: the heart (interconnectedness and particularity); a relational-focused approach to change (personal care-response, generations lens, transformation, and humility); and the creative search for truth (empowerment, nonviolence, responsibility, and a needs-focused approach).

The framework is easy to relate to and accept; however, the author does not sufficiently explain the assumptions behind the framework or why its pieces fit together in that particular web. The author may omit detailed discussion of the framework and its virtues initially because he devotes the rest of the book to this purpose. And though the virtues are explained in further detail in the rest of the book, Sawatsky provides little discussion on the relationship among the circles.

The section on the empowerment value in chapter 4 is noteworthy because it reflects the book’s assumption that justpeace is not only a goal but, perhaps more importantly, the process. Sawatsky accurately stresses the importance of empowering victims of conflict because, as he says, “Justpeace will not be served, it will be created.” Thus, it is intrinsically valuable that victims take ownership and actively participate in their own justice. The author acknowledges that an actor’s decision to engage and participate in the process is a critical component of justpeace. In turn, a willing and engaged actor empowers a practitioner’s quest for justpeace, because he is committed to sharing his reality and his personal (creative) search for justice. Beautifully, empowerment is necessary for justpeace, and empowerment is itself justpeace.

Similar to other books in the existing literature, Justpeace Ethics is incredibly didactic and accessible. It is clearly structured and includes graphs, charts, figures, and summaries to facilitate the understanding of the content. Additionally Sawatsky includes sets of questions pertaining to each virtue featured in the book that help conceptualize and apply each virtue to a particular conflict or scenario. For these reasons, this book is a valuable resource for justpeace studies and justpeace practitioners. This book is exactly what its title claims: a guide.

Sebastian Garaycoa
Georgetown University


Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace. Copyright © 2013.
Published by Plowshares: a Peace Studies Collaborative of Earlham and Goshen Colleges and Manchester University. Supported by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation Initiative on Religion and International Affairs.
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