Given on 28 August 1963 at a rally of over 250,000 people in Washington, Martin Luther King called for a world where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers, ‘when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’
His dream for a society united and based on justice for all was drawn from the last book of the Bible, Revelation. His commitment to non-violence in promoting this dream, and in securing an inclusive future, was ridiculed by some who saw only violent methods as having any chance of success. There were even some who saw racial justice only in terms of one group ‘overthrowing’ another.
Today, and in our own country, we still have racial tensions. We face the challenges posed by living in a multi-cultural society with the added complications of differences of language, ethnicity, and country of origin being ever present.
In the world there is conflict and injustice based around prejudice, racism, and the struggle for one religious or ethnic or racial group to secure superiority over another.
There seems little we can do about the global situation. Nor even, in our little section of the Fens, about problems faced by inner cities and areas of high racial mistrust.
However, this Sunday 8 September is Racial Justice Sunday and we are invited to think again about Martin Luther King’s speech. We can ask ourselves how we contribute to making our own towns and villages places where ‘freedom rings’ and where everyone irrespective of colour or creed can feel secure and included.
We can pray for a just and peaceful environment which begins with, and springs from, our own attitudes and actions.