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Positive Peace: The Presence of Justice is Within Each of Us

We honor the legacy of Dr. King by recognizing the everyday heroes of today's human rights work.

By Rev. Mary Katherine Morn on January 17, 2020

At the end of his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. writes, “One day the South will recognize its real heroes.”

Today, Dr. King appears to be everyone’s hero. I am sometimes surprised at the places I see veneration of and claims about this man (don’t Google it, it will wear you out). It is especially interesting to read the claims about what Dr. King would say today. That’s the easy way to observe a great leader’s birthday—by congratulating ourselves on how they would surely be “with us” if they were still living.

At UUSC, we are surrounded by human rights leaders who are also worthy of celebrating. In honor of Dr. King, I’m thinking about Marta Velásquez. You may have learned about Marta if you participated in UUSC’s Guest at Your Table program this year. Marta is a living human rights defender, or Defensora, working in Honduras with UUSC partner Foro de Mujeres.

Founded in 2003, Foro de Mujeres supports and connects feminist organizers providing services for victims of gender-based violence. Together, they work to empower women and eradicate gender-based violence, which is prevalent in Honduras and one of the primary drivers of migration from Honduras to the United States. With UUSC’s support, Foro documents abuses against women, provides legal and humanitarian support for women who have faced violence, and supports families who have experienced femicide—the murder of a woman because she is a woman.

Foro de Mujeres’ work is vitally important now more than ever as just last week it was reported that in the first 14 days of this year, 15 women have been murdered in Honduras. This is a startling fact that underscores the dire need to address femicide and the deadly dynamics that keep women oppressed.

In honor of Dr. King, what living human rights leader comes to your mind? How are you supporting their work? If no one comes to mind, why is that?

Remember, Dr. King was not universally venerated during his life. Remember the clergy in Alabama who wrote to instruct him on social change? As we consider the prophets of our time, we could also remember Dr. King’s response in his letter.

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…”

When Dr. King spoke of heroes who would one day be recognized, he wasn’t speaking about himself. He was speaking of the everyday people who would not, could not wait for a “more convenient season.” They were on buses and in courthouses and in jails. He was speaking of people who were criticized, called extreme, disruptive, even blamed for their own oppression.

In a world that denigrates those who are bold enough to spread the presence of justice, we must rededicate ourselves, today and everyday, to acknowledging the incredible bravery of the leaders around the world who refuse to settle for anything less than equity and justice for us all. Today, we honor Dr. King, and also the human rights defenders who are yet to be understood.

Photo Credit: iStock – AndreyKrav


About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!

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