WASHINGTON -- April 4 -- Rabbi Arthur Waskow joins a list of major speakers at tonight's historic event at Riverside Church in NYC, commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous speech of April 4, 1967, "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence!" That was the speech where he most dramatically connected the problems of militarism and the war in Vietnam with the problems of racism and poverty at home. For more info: http://www.clnnlc.org/
Speakers tonight at Riverside will include Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Senior Minster, Riverside Church; Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star Families For Peace, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rainbow Push Coalition, Honorable Jane Campbell, Mayor of Cleveland; Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Shalom Center, Sister Joan Chittister, Catholic OSB, Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia, Secretary General of the World Sikh Council, Imam Feisel Rauf among dozens more from the inclusive religious coalition. The event will feature a reading of MLK's famous 1967 speech; and the first reading of a new document calling for peace and an end to the war in Iraq co-created by 14,000 people using a new on-line technology. www.peacenotpoverty.org
Afterwards, there will be the official kick-off of a nationwide "Break the Silence Bus Tour" that will spread the message of the 'Beloved Community.' This national bus tour represents taking the peace and justice message back home. It provides a rolling forum for hundreds of thousands of caring Americans who want to speak out against the Iraq War and its conduct, and to speak out as well for economic, civil and social justice in our own land. For more info: http://www.drivedemocracy.org That bus will make its first stop in Philadelphia, PA - Tuesday, April 5, 11:00 am - 12:30 pm at Project Home, 1515 Fairmount Ave.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow's Speech
On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was murdered. On April 5, the Black communities of Washington and many other American cities, exploded. By nightfall, the President had ordered the United States Army to occupy our capital city, and had imposed a curfew. During the next ten days, more than 10,000 Black Americans were arrested for simply being on the streets. But the police ignored whites who were on the streets; so I was able to work with other civil-rights and antiwar activists to get food, medicine, doctors, lawyers from the suburbs into the Black community.
Ten days later came the first night of Passover. I walked home to prepare for the Passover Seder past detachments of the Army. Past a jeep with a machine gun pointed at the block I lived on.
And deep within me rose the words, "This is Pharaoh's Army."
Today, Pharaoh's army is still on our streets. It is on the streets where the Pharaoh's NRA has prevented us from ending the rain of bullets in our cities, as our children kill and die.
Pharaoh's army lords it over two million prisoners - the highest number in the world - 70% of them people of color.
Pharaoh's army is on the streets of Iraq, where Pharaoh brings on the deaths of our young men and women and the children of whole cities.
Pharaoh's army does not always carry guns. The ancient Pharaoh drowned children in the Nile. Today's Pharaoh drowns them in mercury that damages their brains and minds,
The ancient Pharaoh through his oppressive policies brought on climatic disaster - hailstorms such as had never afflicted his country. Today, Pharaoh brings on global scorching for the sake of Big Oil, the Drug Lords of our national oiloholic addiction.
The ancient Pharaoh defined a "foreign" people, different in language and religion and appearance from the majority, as a danger to his nation and his government. And today -
The ancient Pharaoh drew all his country's wealth into his own hands and those of his cronies - especially of the palace priesthood that told the people that Pharaoh was a god.
The ancient Pharaoh was addicted to his own power -- so deeply addicted that when his own advisers came to say, "You are destroying Egypt!" - he could not stop.
Today, Pharaoh is not a single person but an amalgam made up of three elements: a government that seeks to dominate the world, especially to control the sources of strategic oil; global corporations that turn workers into sweatshop slaves and pour poison into earth and air and ocean; religious currents that claim all truth for themselves, that make wealth and power into idols, that tyrannize over the mortal and ethical choices of the people.
And today, that global institutional Pharaoh and its distorted mirror-image in global terrorist bands threaten to plunge the world into a disastrous war between the United States and all Islam. That global institutional Pharaoh threatens to plunge the world into global scorching, a climate catastrophe that will endanger the human races and thousands of other species.
What shall we do? We, the heirs of the midwives who carried out against the murderous Pharaoh the first act of nonviolent civil disobedience in recorded history? We, the heirs of Moses, Aaron, Miriam.
We must reawaken our covenant with the God Who spoke through the Burning Bush to say, "My Name is this: I Will Be Who I Will Be; I am always Becoming."
We need to Become: To reawaken and renew our covenant across the religious boundaries that have grown out of our unique, diverse, and holy experiences of the Infinite Holy One. Precisely because our diversity has been manipulated to justify hatred, terror, violence, war - we need to create together a New Prophetic Agenda.
This fall, God gives us an extraordinary gift to help us do this work together: God's October surprise. For the first time in decades, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish holy month of Tishrei - the month of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot - begin at the same time, October 3 and 4. October 4 is the saint's day of Francis of Assisi. October 2 is Gandhi's birthday. And October 2 is also the Worldwide Communion Sunday of the Protestant churches. Later in October, the Buddhist and Hindu communities also celebrate their sacred seasons.
God's October surprise. Today the National Council of Churches and the Islamic Society of North America have joined with The Shalom Center and the Tent of Abraham, Hagar, & Sarah to call upon all Americans to observe a fast day of Reflection, Repentance, and Renewal. A fast day to remind us: End the war, feed the poor.
And when do we call for this fast day? On the day that for Muslims is one of the fast days of Ramadan, that for Jews is Yom Kippur. October 13.
Today, on April 4, we have come together across all our religious boundaries in remembrance and renewal of the vision of Dr King, the vision of the beloved community, Let us make God's October Surprise another step on this path: coming together out of and beyond our unique reflections of the One. To embody a new prophetic agenda and to bring it to our country and the world. To build the beloved community.
In Dr. King's last speech, the night before he was killed, he said that God had brought him to the mountain top, where he could glimpse the Promised Land. "I may not get there," he said. "But the people will."
Almost 40 years later, America has not yet come into the Promised Land. It is up to us, each one and all together, to tale those steps to cross the Jordan -- to enter the Promised Land.