Between dream and reality

Sixty years ago there was a man who had a dream. He fought for justice and therefore had to die. His name: Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. His dream was equality between humans. And it’s still a dream.

Every year on 21 March the United Nations observe the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination—a day that should cause Christians concern. The fact that people even classify according to race is already unchristian itself, but the fact that they commit horrible things in the name of this classification is even worse. People have been killed, tortured, rejected, marginalised, and discriminated against—all in the name of racism. And none of this is a thing of the past: civil unrest, fratricidal wars, racial conflicts, intolerance, and violence still exist to this day, this very second! The appeal by UN Secretary General António Guterres, who explains the importance of fostering mutual understanding among peoples and helping diversity to succeed, is a real counterpoint, but one that is probably barely heeded.

Against Apartheid

The starting point for this UN day of observance was the Sharpeville massacre on 21 March 1960, when police opened fire on peaceful protesters in Sharpeville in South Africa. Some 200,000 people had gathered to demonstrate against the Apartheid regime in South Africa. In spite of it being a peaceful and non-violent protest, the situation escalated, shots were fired, and 69 people were killed. Hundreds were injured. Six years after this tragedy the United Nations proclaimed the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as a special day of observance.

There are Sharpevilles all over the world. Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider, the spiritual leader of the New Apostolic Church, takes a clear stand when it comes to discrimination and contempt for humanity: “Even in our enemies, let us recognise the soul which the Lord loves so much that He died for it.” “The New Apostolic Church rejects all forms of violence! This is the position of our Church, this is my position as Chief Apostle, and this is also what the gospel says!” “Our relationship to our neighbour should not be influenced by what is happening in the world. Our reference point is the almighty God. Do not do anything to your neighbour that you would not want him to do to you.” “The neighbour is the one who is sick, who is in prison; the stranger who is so different from us, the stranger who has another culture, another belief, another nature, another opinion—that is your neighbour. It is he or she whom you must love. You cannot choose for yourself who your neighbour is. The neighbour is the person whom God has placed next to me.”

Against hate and intolerance

The Chief Apostle repeats such and similar statements again and again in various parts of the world, thereby underlining the position of the New Apostolic Church against violence and discrimination as it has been set down in the Catechism. “The New Apostolic Church is committed to the gospel and the imperatives of Christian ethics. Thus it understands its duty to include charitable activity which benefits people irrespective of gender, age, colour, nationality, or religion.”

A big dream

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Martin Luther King, Jr delivered his famous speech in 1963 in Washington D.C. before a crowd of 250,000 people. In 1964 racial segregation was abolished by decree. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. A year later, a new election law came into effect, allowing all black Americans to vote. In his speech at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony King said: “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”

A great legacy

He, who told of his dream 60 years ago, was shot on the balcony of his hotel in Memphis on 4 April 1968 by James Earl Ray, a racist. King was only 39 years old. Anticipating his death, King once said: “I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that’s all I want to say.”

His legacy is great, too great for any one person; but if we all dream, then …


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Peter Johanning
21.03.2020