A Conversation with Christa Pelikan[i]

BP. Christa, you are one of the first friends I have made in the restorative movement, right after Nils Christie, Siri Kemeny and Ivo Aertsen. Although we talk now about friendship of course, in the beginning I had found in you rather an intellectual mother. They say that a woman has one real mother but finds others along the way, if she is lucky. I obviously did not feel that way because you were motherly, let us acknowledge that. On the opposite, you were tough, and that’s what I loved about you. Kind at heart, but tough in terms of thinking. You did not like shortcuts and banalities, and you made that very clear.

Let me tell you how important that mode of being, has been for me. Sometimes within the restorative movement we hear too often about doves and roses, but rarely about that honesty and rigour of thinking. I want to dwell a little on this point, hear your reflections about it, why do you think this is?

CP. To be called ‘tough at thinking’, not liking shortcuts and banalities, going for intellectual rigour and honesty, eschewing talk about ‘doves and roses’ – this makes me feel very well understood. It makes me feel to have found in you a kindred spirit, which, by the way is no news to me. But why is that so? Restorative justice has from its very beginning, from the moment I have encountered these ideas, appealed to me because it carries the spirit of rebellion, the passionate wish to change things as they are and to contribute towards establishing something truly different.

I had first attempted to do this with regard to education, by joining the anti-authoritarian movement that was part of the ‘68-Rebellion. It was a rebellion against my own upbringing that had in many aspects resembled what has been described in Adorno and his colleagues as The Authoritarian Personality. I do not dare to contend that I, Jürgen (my husband), and several like-minded people succeeded in creating a new and better way of upbringing for our children, but we did try.

When several years later I got acquainted with restorative justice at the Institute of the Sociology of Law and Criminology (IRKS) through its late director Heinz Steinert, a friend of Nils Christie, I readily jumped the wagon and started to work for a new way of conflict regulation leaving behind the conventional criminal justice. For me, as with education, this implied developing convincing arguments, engaging in struggles with opponents – and finding allies. No, it was not about ‘doves and roses’! You had to sharpen your argumentative tools and defend your stance. You had to start from a clear assessment of reality, exercise sober recognition of people’s thrives, their capacities and their weaknesses, and you had to act with friendliness based on those assessments.

BP. You share the ‘education struggle’ with Nils too in fact. Most of the people that know him focus on his critique of punishment and criminal justice, but he was a fierce critic of our education system, over-schooling, experts, knowledge appropriation, and so on. The resistance you talk about – to authority, to expertise, to being molded and modulated – is in fact a truly remarkable and a distinguishing feature of your generation. And so is the belief into the necessity of the struggle and the possibility of change. For this reason, most of the actions you undertook – but also your thinking, your writings – were courageous, experimental, hopeful, and had the vitalism that characterises someone who has fire inside them. Things seem to me to have somewhat changed. It seems as if our generation has become more docile, more prone and resigned to modulation, has given up the struggles, and stop believing much can be changed. But I might sound a little too pessimistic. I personally try to keep up the fight, and seeing you, Ivo, Howard, and Nils until recently, still engaged and hopeful is of course a great drive. And I have many friends and colleagues around the world who keep up the fight too.

But I am interested to hear more about two things that you are telling me. I would like to understand whether you think that spirit of Conflicts as Property which you describe as living with you all, but which was transversal to many other struggles, such as education, psychiatry, etc. was a feature of that time, or whether you think it is inherent and belongs intimately to the restorative thinking? When you say you were all reacting to your own upbringing in other words, and if this is not our heritage today, should we carry on the same struggle?

The second question relates to the tactics of the struggle you describe. You talk about rebellion against the system and against authority on the one hand, but sober involvement with reality and institutions on the other. In the context of the criminal justice system, how did that exactly work, what did it exactly mean?

CP. The spirit of rebellion and the belief in the possibility of change was an all-encompassing feature of ‘the time’, of people being confronted with the old authoritarian patterns. And it was no mere chance that the ‘68 movement stretched to various fields of ‘living together’: education, health care and psychiatry, law and especially criminal law. A strong indication of this is the fact that Nils Christie had established a close friendship with Ivan Illich, one of the torch bearers of the critique of entrenched state-funded and market-driven systems. I was very moved when Nils told me – in the European Forum for Restorative Justice (EFRJ)’s Conference in Helsinki – how much he had venerated Illich and that he himself ‘a man of little knowledge and education’ felt honoured and happy to have gained the friendship and regard of this brilliant man.

Have things changed? Is this spirit lost? Are young people becoming more docile and have they given up struggling? Of course, there is change – it could not be otherwise. And whilst the forces of capitalism and of state repression have become less piercing and are felt with less immediate pain, they appear more inescapable and more overwhelming. The temptation to resign and to give up struggling is looming heavily. But you yourself know best from your work and your relations with colleagues all over the world that there is also a lot of creativity and of courage – people trying out new and unexpected paths for change.

And this brings me further on to your second question about the ‘tactics of the struggle’. Maybe what we need is more of a slow persevering work, ‘ploughing’ Claudia Mazzucato has called it – to achieve a kind of change that might appear small, tiny even, on the surface, but can ultimately contribute to a turnover of entrenched habits and patterns of going about conflicts. Maybe it is less the great courageous act, the heroic resistance that is called for. This was in fact the fate and the task of the generation before mine, and my own spiritual mother, Liesl Schilder, the founder of the Austrian Probation Service is an example of this attitude and the kind of life it entailed. Maybe it is indeed the small steps based on sober assessment and insightful analysis that will contribute to change.

Here I am, of course, talking about the role of a scientist, the way she can make a contribution. I have described the relationship between scientists and practitioner and policymakers in the plenary speech in the EFRJ Conference in Barcelona many years ago. It was called Research informing practice – practice informing research. The researcher uses her ‘third order observations’ as a starting point for discussion with the practitioners, a discussion that might bring change on its way. For the scientist to keep up hope and the belief in the possibility of change – despite adverse circumstances – might support her and the people she works with.

BP. I love that metaphor of a persisting small change -despite my own fascination for heroic deeds-, I think I know very well what you mean, and it is a wisdom that comes with age and experience. I am curious in fact to hear your reflection about how this field persisted, I think also of the EFRJ, to which you are very committed. It was in Padua, where Ivo Aertsen said “in the beginning when we started, they thought restorative justice was just the new and the latest thing that would soon go away”. But it has persisted, hasn’t it?

CP. Has restorative justice persisted? Has the EFRJ persisted? Well, yes, it is still there – the EFRJ in quite good shape, in fact. Is persistence mere survival? Isn’t it rather approaching a ‘vision’ of overturning the ‘old’ criminal justice system by a system of restorative justice? Ascribing criminal law only the role and function of ultima ratio? I admit that I have implicitly argued for the slow and carefully designed steps, for the sober assessment and the insightful analysis in bringing forward this state of affairs, this ‘overturn’.

But instead of speculating and ‘wishing’, I propose to turn to concrete examples of change. Let’s look at the example of Georgia. A group of dedicated young people, mostly lawyers and mostly women, have started a nationwide restorative justice practice for juveniles so far, turning for support to international experts (like Ivo Aertsen, Renate Winter and myself) and to EU agencies for financial support, and they have forged alliances with judges, prosecutors, civil servants. They invest in the training of law people, they work hard, they are clever and diligent, and they seem to enjoy their work – not the least because they see things moving. I prefer talking about joy instead of ‘fun’ – joy being deeper and more long-lasting. This is indeed not the big single heroic deed; it is persistence and it is being realistic and clever. Yet, they will have to watch out in order not to become completely co-opted by the criminal justice system and to retain the core restorative elements of. But then they can turn to the EFRJ – can’t they?!

BP. They can and they have, just today we met them in Brussels, and tomorrow they go visit Mediante, the mediation service that Antonio Buonatesta is leading. Besides you way of conceiving restorative justice which I have completely adopted and made my own, I have always found fascinating the way you find practice and policies appealing, the way you show interest to them, you get involved with them, and that is in a way related to what you describe as small, persisting, realistic and clever ways to go about change.

I find for example your ideas of ‘accompanying research’ very honest because it is very different from what we hear today of practitioner-researcher becoming one and doing things together with one purpose. You kept instead that position of a companion to practitioners, but always keeping your standpoint clear-sighted. You have both impatience and affection for practitioners isn’t it? And this is also how Christie related to the Norwegian mediators too, he was often there (although not doing research as you did), but just as a companion, offering them his presence, his way of thinking, listening to them, and often ‘scolding’ them, and somehow this way of interacting was direct, honest, and different from some of the critique produced today which is distanced, and often nasty, unproductive even.

But enough, I am afraid we can talk about Nils endlessly, me and you. Let me go back to two other big influences in your life, Heinz Steinert, and your spiritual mother, Liesl Schilder. How would you look back at how they have influenced your thinking -or better say praxis- as I have difficulty to imagine you engaging in thinking without some movement or without some kind of ‘doing’.

CP. Liesl Schilder was not an easy person; she was very strong-minded and she did not hold back with her – often very critical – opinions. There was a group of people she called her friends and they had been friends for decades – through the terrible years of emigration which they had survived, holding on to the memory of those that had been killed. I remember especially – apart from Christian Broda – Austria’s Minister of Justice for many years, two women who were very active in social politics and social work development: Anni Kohn-Feuerstein and Marika Szecsi. To become a new friend, for me, as a younger generation, was a big honour. Setting up the Austrian Probation Service and working for many years, almost until her death as director of the organisation was Liesl’ great Lebenswerk, her life-work.

She had played a decisive role in founding of IRKS, not least by exerting influence on her friend Christian Broda. The ideas of restorative justice constituted a natural expansion of the ideas that had carried the Austrian Probation Service. She encouraged IRKS in implementing these ideas in cooperation with the Probation Service. I came to like her a lot and I know that she liked me in return because I had caught up on her passionate and uncompromising thinking – although I came from a completely different social background. She was a member of what I would call ‘Social-Democratic Nobility’, whereas I was peasant/ petit-bourgeois and very ignorant when I first entered Liesl’s world – together with my husband Jürgen. Combining scientific thinking with political involvement and ‘applying’ my thinking to practice- is also something I learned from Liesl. We had intensive and sometimes heated discussion at her home and whenever something of importance happened in the world, she would call me saying: “Now, what do you say? This is incredible, isn’t it?” I strongly missed these calls after she had passed away. I still expected to hear her voice.

It is much more difficult for me to talk about Heinz Steinert. He introduced me – when I was 18 years old- to Camus and Sartre, to Existentialism, a Weltanschauung, a worldview to which I still adhere until today. Heinz also introduced me to restorative justice in the 1980s – and I am still with it until today. He had put the idea forward, the idea appealed to me and later on I did the research on the Austrian pilot projects. Accompanying Research was my ‘invention’ and this involvement with practice came to shape my thinking. He remained instead the one who criticised. By the way, your presumption that practitioners make me impatient but that I love them also – made me laugh – it is so accurate!

BP. Thank you Christa for sharing these precious memories about two extremely important people in your life. I really appreciate that, and I must confess that it confirms what I already think, it takes a lot of love to do a Lebenswerk, in German they are even quite close: Leben, Lieben.

You are a historian, but also quite passionate about languages. Another thing which I have to share with everyone and that has always impressed me about you, was when during the Conferences of the EFRJ, you would always attend the workshops of the Russian delegation, which almost no one else attended but you, mostly because they would fill a whole room by themselves and often spoke in Russian. You found it fascinating to hear presentations about restorative justice without translation, I remember in Tirana at some point you were the only one without the headphones on, and you said that was on purpose as you wanted to attend to other clues and try to understand the language that way.

I am fascinated myself by other languages and dialects, but knowing you makes me love them even more. We have become in a way colonised by the English language, and the least we can do is to colonise English back since we cannot reject it. For that reason, I love German English, Italian English, Greek English, whatever comes with a character. If English has become our fate, we must become the fate of English! But my comment intends to connect your thoughts on restorative justice and languages, translation, varieties.

CP. I had intended to dedicate the dialogue session for the EFRJ Tirana conference together with you, Bruna and with Claudia Mazzucato to this topic: the limits of language in restorative justice processes, but it turned out to become more concerned with images of justice – which was also fine. Yet, restorative justice’s dependence on language still bothers me. In my scientific research, when doing interviews and talks with victims and offenders, I have time and again come across persons who had no full command of the German language and were therefore at loss when trying to answer some of the questions set out in the questionnaire. It was easier with semi-structured interviews where I could adapt my own questions to their understanding. In observing restorative justice processes, I have experienced the same phenomenon: the striking advantage the ones with capacity for verbal expressions had over those that were restricted in this expression out of various reasons.

I have reported in detail the restorative justice processes that took place in a case of partnership violence in Austria’s countryside. There the restriction had arisen on the side of the male perpetrator – one of the ‘silent men’, as I had characterised this type. Alice, the female mediator resorted to the method of ‘doubling’ and asked his permission to talk for him. Kneeling slightly behind him with her head the same level as his, she addressed his partner, a younger woman, talking about the wounds of his past and his continuing craving for her love. The woman who had never in reality heard him talk that way, could nevertheless recognise the truth behind the words and from there started to open up herself. They eventually arrived at an arrangement to ‘do something together’ and to try to establish another style of communication. Language was in this case ‘substituted’ – but kept its central role. Can restorative justice rely on a different means of communication? There are attempts to use art, painting and drawing, to use dance to promote the kind of communication that engenders the restorative effort.

A film that the colleagues from Hungary showed at the EFRJ conference in Tirana comes to mind. The short, 4-minutes film was produced by Amnesty Poland and is entitled Looking beyond Borders. It shows several pairs of people distributed over a large room, an old empty warehouse in Berlin. They were asked by the organisers to sit opposite each other and look into the other’s eyes – without speaking. The pairs consisted of one person from a European country -most of them from Poland – and one who was a refugee: from Syria, Somalia, Pakistan. There were men and women, young and elderly, and there were two children. The camera wandered from pair to pair, catching silent moments, catching eyes momentarily shut, tears starting to flow, smiles exchanged. The effect this film had on the spectators is hard to describe. Several of us were in tears toward the end of the film when it was stated that over a million refugees were crossing into Europe last year.

Looking back at this experience I have interpreted it as digging into one’s imagination as to what it means to come as a stranger to a strange country and what it means to relate to one another in a very basic, very direct way: by eye-contact – and without using words, by renouncing spoken language. Is there something we can learn from this experience and use for restorative justice in general? Probably not more than the importance and the necessity of this basic recognition of the other and the fact that one might arrive at this recognition through different paths.

Finally, your sentence “If English has become our fate, we must become the fate of English!” expresses wonderfully my own point of view regarding translation, which is such a fascinating and vast field on its own. When it comes to the Russians, why did I attend all their workshops at our conferences? I always had a crush on Russia and Russian culture – predominantly nurtured by literature – Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov. But I also admire the ‘persistency’ of our Russian members: they continue with interesting programs and I wonder how they succeed to do so, but there they are. And in Helsinki they presented again – and one of the participants, Joanna from Brazil, said: “Oh, there are a lot of similarities with the Situation in Brazil!” Consequently, the Russians visited Joanna’s presentation and an interesting discussion ensued. I also know a little Russian, very little in fact, and I like the language.

BP. I was not aware of the Amnesty video. In my presentation in Padua I argued too, albeit from a complete different angle, that justice is not a ‘thing’ that can hypostatized into a reified substance, but is a constantly moving and changing dynamic process, it has life in other words. The occurrence of each relation – when two people shake hands, look at one another, talk or stay silent – is an event that brings something new into the world. Although we are usually obsessed by the restorative geometry or form of interaction such as mediation, circles, or conferencing, we forget that restorative encounters have their own vitalism and resemble more an occurrence, an event, or a becoming, than a being. Each restorative event brings into life its own lines of actualization and possibilities and are thus open and unpredictable. This is partly our difficulty with representing it through an image, because it doesn’t not enable that movement. I showed there a performance The Artist is Present that Marina Abramovic has done in MOMA in 2010, insisting on being present for 3 months, day after day, to encounter the gaze of another human being, of strangers, simply as a human to a human, which I found to be a very significant gesture. She said she had to prepare for a whole year for this, and that it has changed her profoundly.

Christa, you know I also admire the way you theorise restorative justice. It goes both beyond definitions -which is a mode of ‘theorising’ I find unappealing-, and at the same time it is able to account for the core of the restorative thinking, without getting lost into endless values and principles – which I find often unproductive. Can you tell us a bit about this?

CP. This is indeed a highly pertinent question: how to build theories and how to connect empirical research and theory-building? It touches on the essence of my work and I was always convinced that I have the most wonderful, and most gratifying work – being able and being asked to combine what is called ‘desk work’ (mostly reading) on the one hand and getting in touch with people on the other hand.

This reminds me that there is something else I have learned from Heinz Steinert, or rather I have derived orientation from the motto he created for IRKS: “Look carefully, think patiently and don’t let yourself be fooled!”. The “looking carefully” part pertains to fieldwork, to doing – in my case mostly – qualitative research, observing communication, talking to people. The opportunity to listen carefully emerges most clearly when using semi-structured interviews where one can react immediately to the statements of the interviewees, asking for further clarifications and differentiations. Sometimes this becomes an exercise in mutually gaining a deeper understanding of past events and of continuing feelings, bewilderments, of open wounds and of the achievement of closure. It is one of the most beautiful experiences for the researcher when the person you have been talking to declares that you have helped her to perceive herself truthfully and to understand herself better.

The “thinking part” is about choosing and using pieces of theory that you as a researcher deem adequate for the research questions ahead. What does adequate mean? It ought to be a theoretical concept, a theoretically based categorisation that you can apply to your data and that will turn out to provide you and the practitioners you cooperate with, with a new understanding that ultimately helps them to improve their practice. “The prove of the pudding is in the eating” holds also for social science theories. A piece of theory you regard as interesting and well applicable might turn out in fact to be irrelevant.

Finally, “not being fooled” means to not fall prey to either conventional or to new, recently hyped theories. One must not attend to the conventional expectations of those who commission the research. The field of restorative justice provides ample evidence for this. Most often you are expected to “prove” through empirical data that the application of restorative justice processes results in decreased recidivism rates – and is therefore to be preferred to a fully-fledged criminal procedure. But maybe the more interesting question is a different one.

When doing my first research project on restorative justice in cases of partnership violence I ended up with the – admittedly floppy and provocative – statement: “Men don’t get better but women get stronger”. This was not the result expected in the first instance. How did I arrive at it? First of all by looking carefully. Observing restorative processes and talking to men and women in extended interviews, that were repeated about 4 to 8 months later. Avoiding to evince from the perpetrators statements’ regarding a newly gained insight into the wrongness of their attitude and behaviour, allowing the women to describe in detail the dynamics of the relationship, not reducing them exclusively to the role of a victim. In fact I have found something very similar in the description of Karin Sten Madsen and her colleague, both working at a hospital in Copenhagen with women who had experienced date rape, presented at the EFRJ conference in Budapest. Acting against the dominant belief that these women must never be confronted face to face with the perpetrator they had set up the possibility for such encounters taking place. “We have listened closely and carefully to the women – and some of them wanted exactly that”, they explained.

So this is indeed about interaction and movement of thinking. It relinquishes the seemingly secure ground of established theories and established procedures. I have already said previously that the results of research have to be discussed with practitioners and they have to stand the test in the arena of practice. They ought to be open to being set aside, to becoming adapted and refined, to becoming enlarged.

BP. I agree completely with what you describe. Especially pertinent today is the “don’t be fooled” part. But as you said they are all related. Once the lens of looking carefully at phenomena is blurred by the demands of fundraisers and policy makers, the researcher will be fooled in the end and produce something which in fact adds nothing new, except for more of the same. That was a little bit my feeling when I was reading about restorative justice, so much was written about it, and yet I could not grasp its core. And then I read your account of the three core features: lifeworld, participation, and reparation. You have called it the “difference that makes the difference”.

The ‘lifeworld’ has of course very much to do with your background, in a way it is an abolitionist reference which puts emphasis in an understanding of acts and events starting from our own experience and not as framed from the state. This is what Christie, Illich, but also people like Basaglia and even Laing strove for: a reduction of state’s and experts’ interference into the lifeworld, not the least because they saw its dangers. It also meant that a crime should be conceived as an act that happens between two people, and not between a person and a state.

This notion of ‘crime as a conflict’ and the notion of ‘conflicts as property’ are related by ‘participation’, which is the second element you articulate. Participation is for you a core element of the restorative thinking, not just an instrumental notion ‘participation in order to’, but of its own equal importance. This is also related to the anti-authoritarianism, and to the desire to democratize profoundly criminal justice. Christie had radicalized this notion, when he spoke about the importance of moving beyond the idea that we need to find solution for our conflicts but that we need instead to engage in ‘conflict-participation’.

The third element, the ‘reparative’ or ‘restorative’ element, is the distinguishing mark of the restorative approach in a way, isn’t it? Although what is striking is that although the ‘lifeworld’ and ‘participation’ which came from the abolitionists became important for the restorative movement, it was the reparative element that became its main difference, besides the fact that the restorative movement also decided in a way to enter the system and make ‘its hands dirty’ if I may say so.

But we have argued together to go back to our abolitionist roots. We have also worked together in the Alternative project. We called that project ‘the dream within a dream’, to refer to the fact that we wanted to radicalize the restorative dream, to move back to conflicts as a unit of analysis, to move out of over professionalized spaces, to expand our imagination in a way. What are some of the memories or insights you hold the dearest from that project Christa?

CP. Very readily I take up the opportunity to remember and to reflect on the Alternative Project; the dream within the dream and my personal dream project. Did it, finally, turn out to be the radicalization of the restorative dream? The experience of working together in a multi-national and multi-professional team was the big asset; for us it was the source of great enjoyment, not dreamlike at all, but very real, very basic in talking together, discussing together, struggling, eating and drinking, joking. We did achieve bits of change, treading new paths, experiencing disappointment but also getting beautiful feedback, the assurance that our ‘restorative approach’ was understood and made for a difference in the handling of conflicts in intercultural contexts.

But – somehow – we did not achieve the kind of impact I had dreamt about. In each of the partner countries and action research sites, the activities and projects that were established, pointed in the direction of a radical change, but we never managed to come up with the great picture of how this radical change would be realised in different societies and in the face of varied circumstances and conditions. Personally, I have greatly admired what the colleagues in Hungary had tried out, as well as the teams in Northern Ireland and Serbia – with their small and carefully designed steps. Perhaps a final event, where policymakers from governments and from NGOs – apart from researchers – would be provided with an opportunity to listen to what had happened in all of the research sites, to compare the advantages and the drawbacks of the different approaches, might have opened such a broader perspective? As far as I know this was not foreseen in the overall project design granted by the EU. The original idea of using the films to trigger ‘international’ discussions could not be fully realised. Ultimately the whole effort was perhaps reduced to a conventional outcome- despite all the exciting experiences we had in each country and important ‘results’ we could have pointed at.

Therefore I can think back at a wonderful working and researching experience – but there remains the feeling, not of a failure but of a promise that was not kept. Sometimes I dream – again – of getting another chance of getting closer to a fulfillment of this promise – or maybe there will be others who try for that?

BP. The Alternative project left all of us with a longing, but I am very positive about the future. I think the books are widely read, I always show the films and talk about the project. The films you have produced in Vienna, especially the one with the young people What the real Schopfwerker know , are amazing. The project was very intense and it also left us tired, but as with everything, it needs time to rest a little, the wealth of findings is there and we will go back to it. In Leuven, our project gave rise to the Restorative City initiative, in Sardinia they do very similar things with the community, and I have heard from many people who have been very inspired from our approach, especially from the combination of action research and restorative vision. In Trieste they are moving towards developing restorative projects for the city that can be examples of social innovation.

Differently from you perhaps, I am not left feeling that what was missing was the policy makers hearing about it, because I do not believe that that would have made much of a difference. I think it is a matter of time, and we have to continue articulating the country-specificities as exemplary practices, instead of trying to totalize our thinking into one narrative that will account for everything, because this might help others more to move into action into their own contexts. For me, this project was the closest we got to try out -starting from the lifeworld of people- the idea of ‘conflict-participation’ which would enable what Christie had called ‘norm clarification’. It seems to me that currently in Europe, but everywhere else too, we need more than anything forms of restorative praxis that aims at doing just that.

CP. I was also never striving for the great all-encompassing restorative vision to become realised by everyone and everywhere. It was rather the stimulation to be derived from the different approaches and practices, a continuing discussion about the paths that had been tried out. Maybe there was more of this than I had seen and heard about and it is good to hear now about Sardinia and Trieste.

It is also good to become aware that whenever I become skeptical, almost pessimistic, this evinces a counter-reaction from others, from friends and like-minded people. I remember an occurrence in Strasbourg when chairing the Committee of Experts on Mediation in Penal Matters. At the beginning of each of the three-days-sessions I gave to the participants a short summary of where we stand and where I expect we will go. At one of these occasions it was a kind of exhortation to remain modest, not to expect too much of a change resulting from our work and as a consequence of drafting a recommendation. At the end of the day, the representative from Cyprus, a young female public prosecutor approached me and scolded me for having failed in my role as providing hope and trust in the future of new and different ways of doing justice. In confirming her trust in me she restored my confidence and my own trust in our common task.

It might not always be easy to find a balanced approach between sober and critical realism and this continuing trust. The knowledge and awareness that I am on this path together with others leaves me very grateful – I have not forgotten the friends from years ago and I have every reason to be grateful especially to you, Bruna to remain a friend on my side, critical and encouraging, – almost – never tiring.

BP. Christa, I wonder if any of our readers is still with us. We have shown again that we can talk endlessly with each other. I think it is time to conclude for now, but I have a feeling there will be a part two of this conversation. I remain as always deeply grateful for your time and your friendship!

[i] Christa Pelikan, originally a historian, has done pioneering research on restorative justice in the Institute of the Sociology of Law and Criminology in Vienna since its foundations, always combining local with European and international contexts, research with practice and policy, and critical insights with creativity and enthusiasm for the restorative justice field. One of her greatest achievements is her research on the application of restorative justice in cases of domestic violence that largely contributed to the implementation of restorative justice in this area – notwithstanding initial resistance from the women’s movement. Christa has been a co-founder of the European Forum for Restorative Justice, and has chaired the Council of Europe’s Expert Committee for the preparation of the 1999 Recommendation (No. 19) on mediation in penal matters. The EFRJ has awarded Christa the RJ Award for her scientific achievements and untiring support for restorative justice.