Calvin Peacemakers hope to bridge Knollcrest, Handlon campuses, promote restorative justice


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The Calvin Peacemakers Club hopes to educate students on issues of mass incarceration and restorative justice.

Calvin’s Knollcrest campus has a new club: the Calvin Peacemakers, which seeks to educate students about restorative justice and connect the Knollcrest and Handlon campuses of Calvin. 

The club got its start when Nick Nichols, a member of the Calvin Prison Initiative’s first graduating class, spoke to Professor Watson’s political science 110 course last fall. His discussion with the class struck a chord with first-year student Emily Steen. She asked Nichols, who now works as the CPI program coordinator, how she could get involved, and learned that the program had been hoping to start a restorative justice club on the Knollcrest campus.

Although the Peacemakers are new to the Knollcrest campus, they already have a sister chapter at the Handlon campus that started in 2017. “CPI had been at Handlon for two years and guys were looking to give back,” said Nichols. “[They] were looking for a method to apply what they were learning to the world and our world at that time was prison.”

The Handlon club planned and hosted a restorative justice conference, which became a yearly event. The two chapters of the club will do this together in the future. 

The club’s definition of restorative justice is “a transformative model of justice that invites victims, offenders, and communities into a cooperative dialogue of radical hospitality in order to cultivate relational and societal reconciliation.” Their name comes from Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.” 

“I really like that we’re not the peacekeepers or the peace talkers but the peacemakers, and it is a very active word,” said Steen. “We don’t want to just sit around and talk, we want to make the peace that we’re learning about.” 

Members of the leadership team spoke to Chimes about what restorative justice means to them. 

“People are more than their mistakes,” said junior Andrew Deters, the club’s film and media specialist. 

“When you look at restorative justice versus its opposite, retributive justice, I just feel like restorative justice is a much more biblical way to go about handling things in society,” said sophomore Jamie Butler, head of communications. 

Another goal of the club is to act as a bridge between the Handlon and Knollcrest campuses. Having the two chapters of the club work together gives CPI students a link to Knollcrest. “This provided an avenue for them to be more like the average Calvin student,” Nichols said. “They want to be part of the larger Calvin community.”

The leadership team stressed that they don’t know everything about restorative justice. “Our leadership team is very aware that we are just starting to learn about this topic,” said Steen. 

The club is going to be reading “The Little Book of Restorative Justice,” by Howard Zehr to provide a foundational framework for their members. Each month the club will focus on a different subtopic, to create a welcoming atmosphere for people who can’t come to every meeting.  There will be four types of meetings: book discussion, film watching, guest speaker, and a service day. 

The Calvin Peacemakers invite all interested students to join them at their kick off event on Feb. 17 at 7 p.m., where a panel of experts will be speaking about restorative justice. Students who are interested in getting involved with the Calvin Peacemakers can contact Jamie Butler by email.