I read two articles which connected around one theme this week: the image of God in relation to justice.
The first article was about Claudio Vieira de Oliveira, a Brazilian man who was born with a severe and rare condition called congenital arthrogryposis. Not only was he barely able to breathe at birth, his mother was told that as he was unlikely to survive, it would be kinder not to feed him and let him die. She didn’t take that advice and today she claims:
…there’s only happiness now. Claudio is just like any other person – that’s how he was raised in this house. We never tried to fix him and always wanted him to do the normal things everyone else does. That’s why he is so confident. He is not ashamed of walking around in the street – he sings and dances.
One of the features of the rare condition Claudio is affected by, is that his joints cannot extend which results in his limbs being badly deformed; his head collapses backwards or ‘upside down’ over his shoulder. This has not prevented him from training as an accountant and engaging in an increasing amount of public speaking around the world, inspiring others to see beyond their limitations. One message he is keen to get across is that although his head is upside down he sees the world very clearly, the right way round…
The second article was about a Brazilian film-maker, Julia Bacha who has chosen to see and portray the world in a way which is increasingly ‘upside-down’ or contrary to how we are frequently led to perceive it by the media. Her area of focus is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Julia summarises the simple philosophy behind her filming:
Violent resistance and non-violent resistance share one very important thing in common: They are both a form of theater seeking an audience to their cause.
Her focus is on non-violent resistance which is growing in both Israeli and Palestinian camps; relationships are being forged between people who believe that justice begins, to echo Rabbi Arik’s words, in ‘respecting the image of God in their neighbour’ and by refusing to be manipulated into fearful habits of hatred. You can see the trailer for her documentary, Budrus on non-violent resistance here.
The axis of a biblical vision of justice is, quite simply, relationship. The biblical love of neighbour flows from our love of God and is instructed by the prophetic stream which defines love as care through relationship.
Both Claudio Vieira de Oliveira and Julia Bacha may see the world from an alternative or upside-down perspective, but both of them know that it takes courage and persistence to forge and maintain relationship against all odds, demonstrating in very different ways that wholeness can manifest in the most unexpected, distorted and upside-down of circumstances.
Recognising the ǝƃɐɯI ɟo poפ in ourselves and our fellow human beings is just a starting point for forging bold, loving and respect-filled relationships which are crucial for the flourishing of justice.