By Lynne Marie Meyer
#BlackLivesMatter #MuslimLivesMatter #Selma #Montgomery #Karachi #WeAreAllOne #solidarityacrossmovements #GMABlog
“For many of us the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.” – Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, after returning home from Selma.
March 21 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of a pivotal event in the United States. On that day, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., joined by thousands of others, began an historic march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, the state capitol.
One of the most important moments in the Civil Rights Movement, the march from Selma to Montgomery is also one of the great historic examples of interfaith solidarity. Clergy representing many faiths took part in this landmark event in support of African-American voting rights. Of these clergy, perhaps the most famous is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, widely considered to be one of the most important American religious figures of the 20th century.
According to his daughter Susannah, for Rabbi Heschel “the march was not simply a political demonstration, but a religious occasion.” It reminded him, she said, “of the message of the prophets, whose primary concern was social injustice, and of his Hasidic forebears, for whom compassion for the suffering of other people defined a religious person.”
I was reminded of this story some weeks ago, as my students prepared for Black History Month. Two groups that had previously never co-sponsored an event decided to do a lunchtime program looking at parallels between Ferguson and Gaza. It was an interesting idea, and students were eager to learn from one another. The morning of the event, I was already deep in thought, anticipating the program to come and reflecting on Rabbi Heschel and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., when suddenly I heard the news. Three bright, talented, and philanthropic young Muslim college students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina had been murdered in an apparent hate crime.