Recommitting to nonviolence in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
By Lamar Bailey, Director, Institute Justice Team, and Jean Stokan, Justice coordinator
One year before Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, on April 4, 1967, he gave the courageous speech: Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, strongly opposing the U.S. role in the war. He accused the United States of having killed a million Vietnamese by that time, mostly children, and argued that the U.S. government was “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” He stressed how militarism drained resources from domestic poverty programs, saying: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Mercy’s call to nonviolence, both as a Critical Concern and a lens to view our other Critical Concerns, feels ever more urgent as we prepare to commemorate the national holiday honoring Rev. Dr. King, on Monday, January 15. Our Mercy Chapter 2023 Commitment acknowledged a “world that is groaning under the increasing weight of war, violence, racism” and the need to “practice nonviolence, educate ourselves in this area, and commit to peacebuilding.” Thus, as we witness the massive loss of life resulting from the Hamas-Israel war and Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, we feel compelled to respond and again call for peaceful solutions.
In this most recent episode of the Palestinian-Israel conflict, on October 7, 2023, Hamas attacked Israel, brutally killing 1,200 people and taking over 200 hostages. Israel’s response has included the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza. More 21,000 Palestinians have been killed, 8,000 estimated to be children, and more than 85% of its population displaced, nearly two million people. The Biden administration, while urging the Israeli government to avoid civilian casualties, has not called for a ceasefire and continues to provide military assistance without conditions.
Mercy has not been silent in the face of the violence consuming Israel-Gaza and other parts of the world, issuing a statement early in October and joining with many peoples of faith and goodwill in prayer and advocating for a ceasefire and diplomacy.
- Why did Rev. Dr. King choose to speak out against the war in Vietnam?
- Do we still need a “radical revolution of values” today? What are the values that should be at the center of our society?
- Why won’t military solutions ever resolve these larger problems?
- Recently, Rev. Dr. Tyrone Pitts delivered a powerful reflection adapting Dr. King’s speech to Gaza today. You can view the service here, beginning at about minute 43:30, in which he urges the faith community to speak out for a ceasefire and more. What was your reaction to Dr. Pitts substituting Gaza for Vietnam?