Weekly reflections on spirituality and health
Reflection for week of MLK Day
Today’s reflection is an excerpt from MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. He was imprisoned there in April, 1963, as a result of his participation in nonviolent demonstrations in advocacy for racial justice. The letter was in response to public statements of several white clergy in Birmingham, urging caution about the demonstrations. It’s a remarkable document, in which King patiently and clearly addresses the most common reservations about forward movement in civil rights. In this section, King comments about the clergy members’ stated concern about “outside agitators." There are many transcriptions of the letter online, but you can view the original typed text at the website of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford at http://okra.stanford.edu/transcription/document_images/undecided/630416-019.pdf.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider.
The mystery of peace is located in the nature and quality of relationships developed with those most feared.
John Paul Lederach, PhD
Professor of International Peacebuilding, University of Notre Dame
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