Ps. 133: "No Justice, No Peace!"

Dr. Simran Jeet Singh is a scholar, writer, and activist who writes a column for Religion News Service. He serves as Senior Fellow for the Sikh Coalition and a Visiting Professor at Union Theological Seminary. This August, he will release his first children's book, Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon (Kokila—Penguin).

Before Covid-19 even hit New York City, our family began to self-quarantine. My wife is a physician at one of the larger hospitals in the city, and we knew our family was at high risk. What we didn’t anticipate was that the virus would spread through our community so quickly and be so devastating.

As a result of the pandemic, New Yorkers are working hard to maintain physical distance from one another in a way we could have never imagined just three months ago.

At the same time, the recent calls for racial justice are bringing large numbers of us closer together in ways most of us have never experienced before.

After the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the Black Lives Matter movement has swept across the globe, igniting one of the most diverse racial justice efforts in history. In the midst of the most lethal global pandemic in generations, people the world over are still coming together daily to march through the streets calling for change.

Tragically, far too many law enforcement officials across the country have responded to these protests violently. I, myself, have witnessed police brutality during more than one non-violent demonstration in Manhattan.

It would be understandable for the untold numbers of non-violent protestors to back down in order to preserve their safety – either from the virus or from police violence. And yet, they refuse to cower, continuing to show up anyway. I pray that they remain healthy and strong, doing whatever they can to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

What might we learn from all of these people taking to the streets crying out for equality and justice?

Psalm 133 offers us a powerful insight: “Life is sweetest when we live together as one,” in peace.

I read this psalm for the first time while marchers walked by my apartment building, shouting the same words that have been echoing throughout my city: “No Justice. No Peace.”

As I put these two together—the echoing chants and Psalm 133—I understood our human impulse for justice more deeply. We value justice and peace so much because together they give us a taste of life’s sweetness. Being denied these values-in-action is being denied the sweetness of life itself.

This is why so many protestors are willing to risk their health and safety for justice and peace – because without these virtues enacted, our lives are inevitably fractured and our communities left suffering from the age-old disease of racism.

The closing lines of Psalm 133 give us even more to think about: In peaceful societies, life flows one generation to the next, despite hardships and even calamities. What do we make of this? I understand the text to be saying that true peace—just peace—is life-giving, sustaining across lifespans.

As we watch the world crumble around us and reflect urgently on the social fracturing that comes through ongoing and systemic injustice, we can’t help but dream about a future where cohesion brings us more joy. A society that is rooted in, and organized around, inequity and repeatedly reproduces it will never find true peace—it is doomed to suffer, just like ours is today.

Psalm 133 gives us a vision of joy to which we can aspire. Life is good when we live together in peace, and societies that do so endure and thrive. The opposite is also true: societies that do not live in peace are destined to fall. As the protestors have been reminding us loudly and clearly, justice is a precursor to peace. If we truly want to taste the sweetness of life, and if we want to do so in a way that is sustainable and lasting, we must recommit ourselves to peace and justice.

 

Read more about PsalmSeason here and subscribe for email updates.

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

Members of Black communities across the U.S. have disproportionately fallen sick or died from the virus, so some church leaders are using their influence and trusted reputations to fight back by preaching from the pulpit.
Dr. Eboo Patel, Founder, and President of IFYC offered this comment as we remember Juneteenth this year: “Slavery and racism are amongst America’s original sins. Juneteenth marks an important step towards redemption, and so we observe it as a sacred day of remembrance and reflection.” 
Truly, how long must we wait till we achieve our full and complete freedom? And when I say “freedom” I do not mean the theoretical kind, or the type where million-dollar corporations drape their logos with the colors of the rainbow to express a monetary tolerance.
On Thursday, June 10, 2021, Krista Tippett and Eboo Patel discussed the value of courageous pluralism and deep listening at a pivotal moment of our nation's collective formation. How can we equip young people to best address the needs of our time and beyond—truly cultivating the understanding that we belong to one another?
Interfaith coalitions have long taken up racial justice causes, most famously in the civil rights movements of the '60s, Yet, interfaith organizations themselves have often not taken racial equity work seriously.
The conversation among participants focused on past, present and future possibilities of interfaith collaboration at HBCUs and among Black and African American students on other college campuses.
These women are influencing so many in their community by being beacons of the values they hold dear, and that is an incredible way to guide a community. 
While pursuing a master’s degree in Buddhist studies, Han decided to focus her thesis on documenting the nuances of Asian American Buddhists, a community that seemed almost nonexistent, she wrote.
He sees potential for future science-informed partnerships between the government and faith communities to tackle the pandemic.
What has happened in our institution provides a template for similar institutions who may be going through some challenges in establishing an interfaith program. It shows that being true to one’s faith and being inclusive are not opposites.
I hear my sisters and brothers calling out in cacophony, “Aint I a Human?” When Sojourner Truth considered the ways in which white women were revered and protected; when she witnessed the ways their gentility and femininity were affirmed and nurtured; when she experienced the contrast in how she was treated relative to those who shared her gender but not her color, she was compelled to ask, “Aint I a Woman?”
The following interview features Imam Makram El-Amin, who has led the Masjid An-Nur (Mosque of Light) in Minneapolis for 25 years and serves as executive director of Al-Maa’uun, the mosque’s community outreach organization.
The following interview features Anthony Cruz Pantojas, co-chair of the Latinx Humanist Alliance, an affiliate of the American Humanist Association.
The following interview features Micah Fries, director of programs at the Multi-Faith Neighbors Network and director of engagement at GlocalNet.
The church first started offering vaccine doses in January in an effort to boost the vaccination rates in New York City’s Black and Hispanic communities.
This article is part of a series called Faith in the Field that explores responses to Covid-19—including vaccination efforts—within different faith communities. 
Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, talks about the Catholic response to the pandemic.
Fred Davie joins Alia Bilal, Anthea Butler, Adam Russell Taylor and Eric Lewis Williams in a conversation that gets to the heart of how interfaith cooperation can be a part of accountability, justice, and reconciliation in America’s next chapter.
Two thousand volunteers of diverse faiths will engage people through their religious communities.
"Over the years, people have asked if I was 'called' to be a rabbi, and the truth is I don't know, but what I do know is I did listen to an inner voice which I now believe was a holy voice. That holy voice led me to listen even when I doubted..."
The USS Olympia is home to the Difficult Journey Home exhibit that opens May 28, and a historical marker will be unveiled during the Museum’s Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, May 31. Independence Seaport Museum

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.