My wife and I live in a triplex in the Montréal borough of Hochelaga, in the eastern part of the island. One of our sons, who does not live with us, usually leaves his bicycle -as well as his son’s smaller one- locked to our front porch. The other night, it was around 2AM, we heard footsteps coming from the outside staircase (so typical of the Montréal architecture). I got up on a hurry, completely naked, I half-opened the front door to have a glimpse at whatever was happening there, and then I saw a man who seemed to be inspecting his bicycle. Since I was naked, I decided to go back inside and get dressed. Since I’m a 60 years-old man, I also had to relieve myself first. That delay was salutary as it prevented me doing something unwise. People close to me know I’m the kind of guy who would not back off a fight, but I know from 40 years of Christian life and teaching that violence never stands as the best option. Once dressed, but without having made up my mind on the appropriate course of action, I suddenly realized my wife was already outside, only wearing her night gown, barefoot on the sidewalk, calmly explaining to the man holding the bike that this is her son’s bike and that her son enjoys riding his bike with his own son when they come visit the area. Then, she came back inside the house, telling me how drunk the guy was and that he denied having taken our son’s bicycle. Since I wanted to avoid fighting, I resisted the idea of running after him, thinking that I would better leave God deal with that. After all it’s just a bunch of scrap and rubber, I reflected.
Very early the next day, I was leaving for work when I saw my son climbing the stairs with the same bicycle in his hands. Our thief had brought his booty back to our house, while making sure to hide it well behind the garbage cart under the staircase, in case someone had the idea of stealing it again! Had the burglar’s conscience been accusing him? Had he been moved by the fact that his crime would ruin a boy’s ride with his father? Or had he been afraid of getting caught eventually? In any case, our son had retrieved his bicycle. We were grateful to God, not just for recovering the bike, but because my wife’s gentle but frank response had pushed aside any violence, including my own aggressive instinct. As naïve –and even reckless – as her intervention seems, it likely brought the burglar to some sort of repentance and turned out to be restoring a man’s crime through peaceful ways. That event reminded me of Paul’s call in Romans 12.17-21 to respond to evil with goodness and to trust God’s justice and love instead of our own. In the end, justice was done to us –materially—but most importantly a man might have taken a step towards the justice of God. We need more examples of peaceful resistance to violence just like my wife did when intervening without coercion.
Around the world, MCC supports numerous development and peacebuilding programs where conflicts have left their mark on society. Many local initiatives offer conflict resolution trainings and peacebuilding strategies among people with war trauma. In Québec and in other provinces, MCC invests in restorative justice organizations that, among other things, work with inmates and parolees to help them reintegrate society and take responsibility for their actions. It is proven that restorative justice provides better stability and peace to our communities. It all starts with our own reaction when we face injustice and violence in our daily life…or in the middle of the night, naked or in a night gown!