The ICJS Justice Leaders Fellowship is a year-long intensive program that offers local community and nonprofit leaders the opportunity to draw on the rich resources of diverse religious traditions to inform and inspire building a more just Baltimore.
Each Fellowship cohort is composed of Fellows from diverse religious backgrounds who demonstrate success and leadership in a wide variety of fields, including advocacy; arts; public and mental health; nonprofit; and government. Justice Leaders Fellows are committed to increasing interreligious understanding and cooperation, and work together to consider contemporary issues of justice through the lenses of Islamic, Christian, and Jewish teachings and traditions.
ICJS scholars work with Fellows to investigate justice themes through the study of religious texts and dialogue. The theme for 2021 is Economic Justice.
The power of the interreligious dialogue that we had in the Justice Leaders Fellowship is the opportunity for me to focus on the human first before the faith background. Actually being able to just talk with people and understand where our foundations are--that's been really powerful.
Everybody came into this Fellowship prepared to negotiate and to share a sense of diplomacy in our conversations. To their credit, everybody really wanted to learn more than they wanted to speak for themselves. The facilitators of the Fellowship did a great job...you got comfortable with people and you knew you could have those conversations for the purpose of learning from each other and finding the solution. That was well orchestrated.
What surprised me about the program was just how quickly people really wanted to be in connection--the level of curiosity that was in the space and the respect and really seeing each of us as unique people worthy of dignity and honor. That really struck me, and I think that that sort of paves the way for the possibilities for how we can bring cross-cultural and cross-religious dialogue to Baltimore.
What I learned during the course of this program is that it requires courage for people to come out of their shell and to even discuss the impact that religion has on their thinking. I don't think there's any way around it being potentially offensive or remarking on things that may divide us, but I've learned that if we can get through that to the authenticity of the experience that a person has between them and God, I think we can learn a lot.
Interreligious dialogue is really important for so many people. Whether we choose to have a faith or not, it's something that, as human beings, is part of who we are, how we grapple with the meaning of all of this that we're in. So often in work and professional settings, we don't--for various reasons--share what our relationship with faith and religion is. So to have a structured space where people are coming in from a place of respect to have these conversations I think is really important.