THE continuing struggle for peace and justice in the UK as well as the United States emerged as a theme at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday, when a service was held for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Revd Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
In his sermon, the Bishop of Woolwich, Dr Karowei Dorgu, asked: “How many more young people will it take?” before a national emergency was declared over knife and gun crime.
“We cannot turn a blind eye,” he said, to this violence that particularly affected black people, in a week when the year’s tally of (suspected) murder victims in the capital reached 48.
He said of the deaths: “Every parent has lost a child. . . When there is injustice in the world, there is injustice to all.”
ANDREW DUNSMORE/WESTMINSTER ABBEYAmanda Khozi Mukwashi, chief executive of Christian Aid, lays a wreath
The Duke of Kent and United States’ Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Lewis Lukens, were among the dignitaries at the “Service of Hope”, organised by Christian Aid.
In his words of welcome, the Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd John Hall, said that Westminster Abbey had a statue of Dr King on its west front. “Today, working together with Christian Aid, we hope again to learn from the example of Martin Luther King, and to commit ourselves afresh to keeping the dream alive of justice for all peoples under God and of peace in the world.”
The Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin, led the confession. Among those who read prayers was the President-elect of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Michaela Youngson.
The Martin Luther King Celebration Choir, a collection of different gospel choirs, sang anthems.
The first reading, Amos 5.18-24, was by Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, mother of the murdered south-east London teenager Stephen Lawrence: justice would “roll down like waters”, and righteousness “like an ever-flowing stream”.
In her first public appearance as chief executive of Christian Aid, Amanda Khozi Mukwashi said that she was “really proud of the role Christian Aid had in supporting his [Dr King’s] work in this country and around the world” as early as the 1950s. The charity had supported the civil-rights movement under its first director, Janet Lacey.
Ms Khozi Mukwashi said: “Christian Aid continues to reach out to people regardless of colour and creed”, and she was “determined to continue to champion justice”.
Dr R. David Muir, a senior lecturer at the University of Roehampton, said that Dr King had been, and remained, an “icon for justice and peace”, and a “drum-major for justice”. Dr King had taught the world that “racism is politically unsound, socially unjust, and morally untenable.”
ANDREW DUNSMORE/WESTMINSTER ABBEYThe Bishop of Woolwich, Dr Karowei Dorgu, preaches at the Abbey
Dr Dorgu recalled Dr King’s remark that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It was important, the Bishop said, to shape the State in the “ideals that would make our society a more just society”. It was the “duty of everyone to work towards a beloved community on earth”. He urged members of the congregation to ask themselves: “What can I do to address injustice in society?”
Reading a prayer adapted from Clementine Naita, Noah Reddie said: “I dream of a world, where all children experience safety, opportunity, and hope; where they are proud to be alive, and where justice never fails.”
Before the service, Ms Khozi Mukwashi laid a wreath at the Innocent Victims memorial outside the Abbey, and Mr Lukens laid a wreath in memory of Dr King.
Read about Martin Luther King’s influence on a century of campaigning