“Goedemoed – Centre of Excellence” – freely translated “good spirit” the name presents a vision for the big prison some 35 kilometres from Aliwal.
Instead of having a Christmas-Story the Gospel of Mark begins with Jesus being baptised, receiving the Spirit. The Spirit that, then, leads Jesus into the desert is not qualified as “holy” as in the other versions of the story. It is just a spirit, leaving it to the reader to find out what kind of spirit it is.
Maybe it is our Christmas story to find out what is happening with our prison ministry that is concerned about restorative justice. It aims at re-integration of offenders and restorative justice. The victim-offender-dialogue is an important tool. Visiting victims at home the team realized how little attention they receive and what bitter memories and fears rule their lives. Victims of sexual violence feel vulnerable and violated again in court when defence lawyers try to discredit them.
Just at the end of the Year of Mercy we celebrated a little festival of victims of crime at our pastoral centre Mount Carmel. It aimed at showing respect and appreciation, empowering and accompanying a process of turning from being victims into being victors. Different stakeholders of police, psychologists, social workers and the parole board were present to assist and advise.
When our team for prison-ministry organises trips to Goedemoed for school-classes with children tempted by crime and parents notice an impact, then, maybe a spirit that is good, healing and promoting life has become again palpable. Many didn’t expect any good coming out of Bethlehem. And here we see again something good, something humanizing, coming out of the context of Goedemoed this time, hope for a humanity promoted by the dedication to the ever-adapted vision of our pastoral plan “Community Serving Humanity”.
Wishing you a blessed Christmas, the feast of becoming truly human
T Michael Wüstenberg
Bishop of Aliwal