Why did you write this particular story?

Back in 2005, I was fortunate to have a writing fellowship at The St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity in Valletta, Malta. I absorbed the culture, history, and crisis facing this beautiful and troubled island. Though the refugee situation was not on the radar here at home, it was very much a crisis in Malta, where thousands of desperate, displaced people from the horn of Africa flooded the tiny island, the closest point of entry to the European Union. Because of overcrowding, many displaced people were imprisoned in Detention Centres. I learned about the complexities of the crisis. I talked to refugees and to volunteers from the Jesuit Refugee Service who were working to help them. I chatted with Maltese people to understand their point-of-view. I read many testimonials of North African refugees who had been imprisoned in Detention Centres—for years—on their way to seeking asylum.

In addition, while living in Malta, a Catholic island, most famous for the Knights of St. John, I discovered a fascinating and secret Jewish history and minority on the island, behind and beneath the more dominant history. In fact, during the reign of The Knights of St. John (1530-1798), the only Jews (with few exceptions) were slaves in Malta. A prison to hold these Jewish slaves had been built in Valletta. Throughout the reign of the Knights, the islands were the last European refuge of slave traffic and slave labour. The plight of the Jewish slaves on Malta echoed the refugees’ current plight.

These interconnected threads knit together: marginal characters, forced from their homes, displaced from family and identity, seeking refuge and sanctuary elsewhere. People who had lost or been cut off from their blood family, forming and choosing new families of their own making. The seeds of In Many Waters were sown.

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