I was in town on Thursday and witnessed something I’ve heard of but never seen before: mob justice. Apparently two guys were scamming people by stuffing stacks of bills with cardboard rather than actual bills. When they were discovered, a small crowd chased them down and a group of about 20 guys were taking turns punching and hitting them with metal bars. As the 2 men tried to run away, they were tripped and the beating continued.
I kept my distance, which wasn’t all that far away because I was paying for my groceries in a little shop across the street. The crowd eventually moved down the street, following the men as they tried to get away.
I watched along with everyone else. And I thought. A lot. I’ve thought about it for 3 days now. The American part of me has strong feelings about what justice should look like, and it doesn’t look like 2 thieves being beaten on the street. But the American in me is reliant on a strong, honest police force and a right to a speedy trial by jury. “There are no police close by. They will do nothing,” said the lady in the shop. And I’ve heard of people sitting in overcrowded prisons here for years as they wait for their trial. As for juries, they are not used here. Loyalties are too easily bought, and the level of education – both general education as well as education about laws and justice – is too low to make juries a viable option.
So is mob justice the answer? It is immediate, and it is an extremely effective deterrent. It is also filled with anger and the passion of the moment. In an ideal world, it is not the answer. In my small, American brain, mob justice is categorically rejected. But I live in Africa, in Malawi, and more often than I’m comfortable with, mob justice has become the people’s answer to a broken system, to a broken world. I don’t like it. I’m not comfortable with it – I’m not even comfortable with thinking about it! But it is a part of this world I live in.
Thankfully, I won’t always live in this world. I know the Judge, and I know that He will bring justice to all.
Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous – you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! —Psalm 7:9