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Monday, January 20, 2020

Murder victims bring hope to Georgia

New Hope House
November 1994

The following account is excerpted from New Hope House reflections on the Journey of Hope in Georgia last October.  The Journey was initiated by Mary Ruth Weir and Ed Weir of New Hope House – a nonviolence community in Griffin, Georgia – along with the board of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation (MVFR).  The Muste Institute supported the journey with a September 1994 grant of $2,000 to MVFR.

During the first two weeks of October, 1994, members of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation traveled around the state of Georgia in an event called the Journey of Hope.  They shared feelings of anger, loss and pain brought on by the murder of a loved one.  They also spoke about the healing they experienced because of their own reconciliation with the perpetrator of the crime.  This reconciliation includes their opposition to the death penalty.

During the planning and organizing of the Journey, several people heard about MVFR and spoke of their own need and desire for healing in similar situations.  As the Journey progressed more people spoke out after hearing MVFR speakers.  Five people from Georgia and Florida joined MVFR and spoke during the Journey about their own loss and reconciliation.  In all, 24 MVFR speakers and 46 support people traveled on the Journey at different times.

The Journey of Hope was not a march about the state.  Rather local organizers arranged speaking events in religious organization with Sunday school classes and youth meetings, in middle school and high school classes and assemblies, and in community meetings.  Local media included TV programs, radio talk shows and newspaper interviews.  Tree plantings as a symbol of hope were also done.  MVFR people spoke directly to over 9,000 Georgians at over 150 different events, and reached several hundred thousand more through media events.

The Journey was a very positive, encouraging event.  Several people decided that they no longer would support the death penalty.  Others talked for the first time about the murder in their own family.  It does cause one to hope for the future.  Change is possible.