Abigail Brown' 14 (right) in the offices of Community Restorative Justice Ireland.
Summer 2013 Internships: Mending Divisions in Belfast, Northern Ireland
History major Abigail Brown ’14 had the opportunity to live and work in Belfast, Northern Ireland, through the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship’s (CPGC) summer internship program. Brown assisted Community Restorative Justice Ireland (CRJI), an organization that works within the criminal justice system and provides mentoring, educational programs, victim support, suicide intervention, and family services.
Brown first became interested in the Northern Ireland dynamic after attending a talk by Howard Zehr, known as “the grandfather of restorative justice,” as a part of Haverford’s Restorative Justice Project discussion group. Her participation in the CPGC-sponsored “Inside-Out” course in a local prison encouraged Brown to consider the differences between domestic and international methods of restorative justice. “With this experience, I already had a solid foundation of the principles underlying CRJI’s work,” she says.
Northern Ireland’s approach to community building has been tailored towards restoring the trust that was lost during the Troubles as a result of corrupt and violent paramilitary policing. Since the peace process began in 1998, the police service has taken a new name and works to build a positive image, but Brown says that the mistrust is still noticeable today. She has witnessed the division between Catholic and Protestant communities in the residential segregation, political murals, and news stories. Brown’s experience with CRJI has allowed her to also see the progress that is being made towards mending this division.
Living and working in post-conflict Belfast proved to be a dynamic experience for Brown, who was able to attend CRJI executive meetings, community forums, and restorative justice training sessions. Her final project, which she hopes to compile as an audio piece, involved interviewing CRJI members about their organization’s methodology and practices.
—Shannon Smith ’15