Transcript for video from Venessa Johnson Day, ICJS Justice Leader Fellow:
I have two key takeaways from our time in Fellowship.
First is my understanding of water and justice that was really deepened by our discussion around Judaism and the creation text. I had not considered prior to our discussions the concept of water as part of the creation story. So, the idea that water was with God when He created the earth and mankind really struck me.
In deeper reflection on that conversation, I came away with a real different perspective on what it means for water to be life. For water to be a right of humanity, but also the responsibility that humanity has for insuring, demanding, providing access to water across-the-board, beyond just our need for it for life but kind of in an integral ecology type of understanding of both necessity and justice.
The other thing that struck me and really deepened my understanding in terms of water and justice was our discussion of Noah and his story across all three of the Abrahamic traditions. Really understanding Noah from the Jewish tradition, understanding that he was not necessarily considered…well, he was the best of a bad generation – a generation so bad that God wanted to wipe it from the face of the earth. And then after God showed him mercy and saved he and his family, he immediately planted an orchard, got drunk, and cursed his son, which is a lot different perspective on Noah than in my own tradition where Noah is heralded as an everyday guy who followed God’s – was obedient to God, even when what God was requesting seems a little bit weird and brought about great ridicule to him. And then moving on into the Islamic text where there isn’t biographical information about Noah except that what we can see of his person and his integrity through his conversations with God. And in that case, he was passionate about humanity and humanity’s service to God.
In reflecting on Noah and his story across the three texts – across the three traditions – it really struck me that in each, Noah was a tool of God, for God, and his story was significant in that it displayed God’s mercy and God’s justice. And in thinking of all of that in terms of how water (1) is used by God because water is a force and, while it is a life-giving force, we know that it can also be a life-taking force, right? So, in considering God’s tools and how he used Noah and how he uses water, just making that connection for me was very important. So much so that when I consider how it will impact my own work, I think my real takeaway from that is I will purpose my connections with other people to understand their back story, to know what I can about them as a person, to see a reflection of them through God, but more importantly to understand their purpose and their work, and to let that be what I focus on in drawing connections and facilitating fellowship with other people. So, understanding that we are all human, we all have a certain back story, and if you ask one person versus another that back story might have a different perspective or have difference language around it. But at the end of the day, what has God purposed for me or for that person to do, and how do we move forward in our work and getting it done?
The city of Baltimore is part of a national conversation around questions of justice, race, and community. In the initiative Imagining Justice in Baltimore, ICJS will contribute the perspectives of local Jews, Christians, and Muslims to the public conversation about (in)justice in Baltimore. Each contributor represents her or his own opinion. We welcome this diversity of perspective and are not seeking a single definition of justice between traditions, nor denying the multivocal nature of justice within traditions.