Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dreaming the Beloved Community

"... Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered outsider anywhere within its bounds."
Rev. Dr. M.L. King, Jr.
"Letter from a Birmingham Jail" - 4/16/63

January has been a memorable month of celebration. From the nation's seat of power to small towns, the life, work and struggle of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been honored with numerous activities of remembrance. His message of justice and equality has taken on renewed meaning as the country is witness to the inauguration of President Barack H. Obama, and his administration's message of hope and change.

The American Friends Service Committee's work in partnership with leaders of the civil rights movement included actions in support of voting rights, desegregation and nonviolence education and training. While incarcerated for a nonviolent demonstration against segregation Dr. King wrote a letter in response to the criticism of some religious leaders. The "Letter from Birmingham City Jail," was his spiritual reflection on the nation’s freedoms and principles, and the clarity he felt about the actions taken to support Birmingham's schoolchildren and their families.

Central to this message was a deeply held belief that everyone must be treated with dignity and embraced as an equal member of society. His Beloved Community was one of inclusion, equality and justice. This vision and dream of the future acknowledged the totality and the “solidarity of the human family.’

It is difficult to predict what Dr. King might say or write in 2009.

Surely his prophetic voice would speak to the global and national conditions we face. His remarks would call for an end to war, an economic bailout for the poor, working families, the unemployed, those without health coverage, and a compassionate solution to the plight of undocumented immigrant workers. Nearly fifty years later, his words still beckon our nation to realize a common unity that stretches beyond imposed or fictional barriers: "..injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Our nation now enters a period of new leadership and hopeful policy shifts. This is an extraordinary opportunity for national and local leaders to affirm Dr. King’s message of hope and promise. This driving spirit undergirds AFSC’s national human rights network as it works for humane immigration policy and the equal treatment of all.

When historians revisit this period they will declare that the Beloved Community of the 21st century emerged from Dr. King's groundwork and the nobility of his message. Moreover, they will acknowledge that children, teen-agers and young adults formed this community's cornerstone. Having rejected injustice and exclusion, they will embue the future with their spirit of dignity, honor and justice.

To request a copy of Dr. King’s letter visit