by Sher Afgan Tareen, ICJS Justice Leader Fellow
Over the course of the Justice Leaders’ Fellowship, I gained a richer understanding of how water shapes scriptural writings. The close reading of the verses in the Christian Book of Revelation, for instance, helped me understand that its author was as intuitively aware of the importance of water to cities as are urban designers and architects.
I had always thought of the Book of Revelation as a fantastical tale about the end of the world and the ascension of people to a heavenly realm—imagery that failed to capture my everyday life. But reading about how the New Jerusalem has streets through which water will flow endlessly made me realize that the category of the apocalypse was not immaterial at all. It had very material imaginations about a topic that animates my interest in the study of religion: How do we design healthier cities?
Moving forward, I plan on drawing upon my experience as a Justice Leader Fellow in designing courses in religion at the undergraduate level and perhaps even younger age groups that offer a better justification for gaining religious literacy than the usual liberal catch phrases of “increased appreciation for difference” and “the need for tolerance.” Youth today stress the urgency to reform our cities even if that requires abrogating such core tenets of liberalism. Instead of being pushed aside in favor of seemingly more futuristic categories such as social justice, the study of religion can be at the forefront of ushering the very seismic transformations in urban life for which the youth presently crave.
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.