Hundreds of Church Leaders to March On the United Nations to Call for Peace: We Talk to Civil Rights Leader and Martin Luther King’s Mentor Reverend James Lawson

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Today is International Human Rights Day. On this day in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Then, the world was recovering from World War II, the Holocaust, the rise of Hitler and fascism in Europe, and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Today, the Bush administration is preparing to unleash another war on the people of Iraq; dozens of prisoners are being held in Guantanemo Bay without access to courts or lawyers; unknown numbers of immigrants have been deported or are in detention in this country; police forces are cracking down on public protests; and everyone in this country is under increasing surveillance by the state.

We thought we’d take a minute to remember the Declaration. A few excerpts:

Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 9: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10: Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 12: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence…

Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media…

Article 20: Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association…

All over the country, people will be taking to the streets today to protest the looming war in Iraq.

Here in New York hundreds religious leaders will be marching on the United Nations. Over fifty are expected to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience.

The religious leaders will be challenging the morality of another war in Iraq.

Well today we’re going to have a discussion on the role of Christian teaching and the Church in the peace movement.

We’re joined right now by two people from the United Methodist Church ­ the church of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. David Wildman is with the Human Rights & Racial Justice group of the Global Ministries and plans to participate in the march on the UN today.

And we’re joined by the Reverend James Lawson, a longtime peace advocate and civil rights leader. He is considered to be one of the leading architects of the civil rights movement and a personal tutor on nonviolence to Martin Luther King.

His activism began during the Korean War when he was jailed as a conscientious objector. In 1957 he first met Martin Luther King and they soon joined forces to realize their dream of starting a non-violent mass movement. That same year Lawson went to Nashville to teach the mechanics of nonviolence to budding civil rights activists. Lawson continued to work with King until his death but has never given up on their shared dream.

For 14 years he served as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference the organization founded by King to end racial segregation by nonviolent protest. Currently Rev. Lawson is the pastor emeritus at Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles.


  • Rev. J. M. Lawson, Jr., pastor emeritus, Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles. Rev. Lawson was a mentor to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • David Wildman, Executive Secretary, Human Rights & Racial Justice group of the Global Ministries, United Methodist Church.

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