Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair has been looking at the history of the civil rights movement and the legacy of Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr as he reflects on the crisis in the United States. Here are his thoughts:
On August 28th 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D,C. and spoke of his dream. He began by making reference to the Emancipation Proclamation which in 1863 had declared freedom for millions of slaves – but went on to say that 100 years later the descendants of slaves are still not free. Urging the crowd to make that promise of freedom a reality he said:
“Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”
Much has changed in the 57 years since that iconic moment and yet much of King’s dream remains unrealised.
Along with folks from around the world, we in Scotland have watched in horror at the turmoil that has spread from city to city across America in response to the death of 46-year-old George Floyd on the 25th May at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department. Several officers were summarily dismissed from their positions and one is to stand trial for murder.
The cry of ‘Black Lives Matter’ is heard again on the streets and the frustration of one more black life lost in such a fashion has erupted into a catastrophic round of destruction and violence.
Many will remember that Martin Luther King also said that, ‘a riot is the language of the unheard’ and that although he advocated non-violent responses, he condemned the conditions that led to such unrest in the first place.
We plead for people of reason and goodwill from across every community to come to the fore to bring an end to the present cycle of violence but just as importantly to begin the mammoth task of addressing the underlying divisions that continue to be a scar through too many of our nations and communities.
We call particularly on people of faith to give expression to Jesus’ words that ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.’
In saying as much, and in committing ourselves to pray, we remain mindful that there are divisions within our own society which are every bit as ugly and life-denying and which rear their head all too often. Let us not rest while barriers between one person and another remain and where bridges need to be built.