Martin Luther King Day: towards a 'world house'

By staff writers
January 19, 2015

In 2015 Martin Luther King Day falls on Tuesday 19 January. There is a moving article on the website of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change by Dr King's widow, Coretta Scott King (who died in 2006), herself an important author, activist and civil rights leader.

Its highlighting of King's concern for the vision of a 'world house' is especially poignant and motivational on a day when the charity Oxfam publishes a report which indicates that the wealth of the richest one per cent of humanity will overtake that of the other 99 per cent in 2016, unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked.

Coretta Scott King writes: "We commemorate on this holiday the ecumenical leader and visionary who embraced the unity of all faiths in love and truth. [But] we must also commemorate the global leader who inspired nonviolent liberation movements around the world. Indeed, on this day, programmes commemorating my husband’s birthday are being observed in more than 100 nations.

"The King Holiday celebrates Dr King’s global vision of the world house, a world whose people and nations had triumphed over poverty, racism, war and violence. The holiday celebrates his vision of ecumenical solidarity, his insistence that all faiths had something meaningful to contribute to building the beloved community.

"The Holiday commemorates America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence – the man who taught by his example that nonviolent action is the most powerful, revolutionary force for social change available to oppressed people in their struggles for liberation.

"This holiday honours the courage of a man who endured harassment, threats and beatings, and even bombings. We commemorate the man who went to jail 29 times to achieve freedom for others, and who knew he would pay the ultimate price for his leadership, but kept on marching and protesting and organising anyway.

"Every King Holiday has been a national 'teach-in' on the values of nonviolence, including unconditional love, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation, which are so desperately-needed to unify America. It is a day of intensive education and training in Martin’s philosophy and methods of nonviolent social change and conflict-reconciliation. The Holiday provides a unique opportunity to teach young people to fight evil, not people, to get in the habit of asking themselves, 'what is the most loving way I can resolve this conflict?'

"On the King Holiday, young people learn about the power of unconditional love even for one’s adversaries as a way to fight injustice and defuse violent disputes. It is a time to show them the power of forgiveness in the healing process at the interpersonal as well as international levels.

"Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is not only for celebration and remembrance, education and tribute, but above all a day of service. All across America on the Holiday, his followers perform service in hospitals and shelters and prisons and wherever people need some help. It is a day of volunteering to feed the hungry, rehabilitate housing, tutoring those who can’t read, mentoring at-risk youngsters, consoling the broken-hearted and a thousand other projects for building the beloved community of his dream.

"Dr King once said that we all have to decide whether we 'will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. Life’s most persistent and nagging question, he said, is `what are you doing for others?’' he would quote Mark 9:35, the scripture in which Jesus of Nazareth tells James and John '… whosoever will be great among you shall be your servant; and whosoever among you will be the first shall be the servant of all.' And when Martin talked about the end of his mortal life in one of his last sermons, on February 4, 1968 in the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, even then he lifted up the value of service as the hallmark of a full life. 'I’d like somebody to mention on that day Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to give his life serving others,' he said. 'I want you to say on that day, that I did try in my life…to love and serve humanity.'

"We call you to commemorate this Holiday by making your personal commitment to serve humanity with the vibrant spirit of unconditional love that was his greatest strength, and which empowered all of the great victories of his leadership. And with our hearts open to this spirit of unconditional love, we can indeed achieve the Beloved Community of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream.

"May we who follow Martin now pledge to serve humanity, promote his teachings and carry forward his legacy into the 21st Century."

* Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change: http://www.thekingcenter.org/

* The MLK Washington Mall speech: http://uspolitics.about.com/od/speeches/a/i_have_a_dream.htm

* More on Martin Luther King from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/martinlutherking

* Martin Luther King and freely nonviolent speech after Paris: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21301

* Richest 1% will own more than all the rest by 2016, claims Oxfam: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21323

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.