Last week was Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the U.S. Not surprisingly, we here in Northern Ireland don't get the day off school or work to celebrate his life and legacy. But, what we do at a place such as this, in the heart of a country that has spent the last 10+ years trying to heal from the violence that took over the lives of its citizens for over 30 years prior, is talk about Dr. King. At a peace center nestled in the heart of a country that has dealt, and still deals with its own prejudices and forms of racism...that has had its share of civil rights marches that have ended in violence and even death, we analyze Dr. King's tactics. We talk about his life. We talk about his peaceful approach. We talk about how out-of-reach it seems to so many people in so many countries. We try to decide objectively if it truly was effective.
Perhaps some of you don't know about The Troubles and why we're here. Maybe you don't know what a peace center like Corrymeela had to survive and work through in a country that was in so much pain. I'm still trying to figure it out. I'm still trying to understand what the volunteers mean when they talk of a childhood where they were forced out of neighborhoods depending on who their parents talked to, or associated with. I'm still trying to comprehend why this ever happened. I'm slowly learning why this still happens.
One staff member last week asked the question...."I wonder how The Troubles would have been different if we had a Martin Luther King Jr. to preach a message of peaceful resistance."
It took me coming all of the way over here to pause and think about that. How the civil rights movement could have gone much differently. Yes, it was violent and sometimes bloody. And I know Martin Luther King Jr. was human and not perfect. But there was someone telling people to resist peacefully. Not to do nothing. Not to take it. But to peacefully resist.
That Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knows his stuff.