An MLK Day Altar Call ... and Gaza
Yesterday, the Presidential Inauguration Committee announced that the annual celebration of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be an official part of the inauguration activities. They launched a new Web site, USAservice.org, as a hub for events around the country on January 19th, the day before the inauguration. Groups around the country, including faith-based groups, are being invited to host a day of service and commitment. And people across the country are being invited to join those groups on the 19th in their local communities.
I have been serving on advisory groups to the transition teams working on the role of civil society and faith-based organizations, one of which has focused on the MLK day of action. The emphasis has clearly been on more than a day of service, but also on commitment that lasts beyond the day. We’re even calling it “an altar call” to take action in our own lives and families, our local communities, and in our nation on the big issues that we face. We have been exploring the possibilities of not just service but all kinds of civil action, including community organizing and advocacy on social justice issues. The president-elect will be giving a call to action on that day before he addresses the nation in his inaugural ceremony the next day.
I encourage all of the faith-based action groups and local churches in the Sojomail constituency to consider hosting one of these MLK events on January 19th as a way of further reaching out to your local communities and involving more people in your ongoing work. Our work is never just for a day, but this day might be a good opportunity to introduce new people to your work and invite their commitment and involvement beyond a day of service. And I would encourage all the people on our Sojourners list to consider joining in one of these events in your community. Everyone is invited to go to the Web site to either host or join in an event.
Sojourners has been invited to put a link on USAservice.org to help people find resources and links to local and national groups in the faith community that they can connect with. Look for that update soon.
I can’t help also commenting on the tragic situation in Gaza after a week like this. There have been many calls for a ceasefire which, of course, I support as necessary and important. But we have had so many failed ceasefires in the Middle East, so many shattered dreams of peace, so many shattered lives. What we continue to lack is the kind of real political solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that could finally make a “ceasefire” endure. That political solution has been neglected, ignored, or postponed for far too long. And until we find that solution there will be no lasting ceasefires, and both sides will continue to make their historic grievances and arguments for continued violence known to the world.
It is time for a just, fair, and viable two-state political solution which would finally make it possible for the Israelis and Palestinians to both live in peace and security. It is time for a new administration in Washington to commit to finding that solution. And it is time for the religious leaders of the world—Christian, Jewish, and Muslim—to commit ourselves to a real and lasting political solution as well, and to seriously focus our energies on finding it together. Enough of the violence, the bloodshed, the justifications, and the anger. It’s time to focus, and stay focused, until we find the political solution that will make a real ceasefire finally possible.