by Ingeborg Breiner
former International Peace Bureau Co-President & former Director of UNESCO
Some of us would remember exactly where we were on the day 50 years back when Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered so hideously. Very few “survive” being killed in the way that Martin Luther King has done. The civil rights movement and the struggle against racism are forever linked to his name, his words and his deeds. As we mark the 50th anniversary of his death it is of high value to have this collective reflection in order to look more deeply into what his legacy means, and may mean, in the 21 Century.
Even though his name may be most strongly linked to the fight against racial segregation, his opposition to war and encouragement of non-violence remain of great inspiration. His criticism of the Vietnam War, of the drafting of young, colored men from disadvantaged families and the role of the military industrial complex, made him a very central person for “the 68-generation”. Those in this generation with links to the Hippie movement were particularly receptive to dreams about a new and more just society, less hierarchical and less authoritarian, without war and based on love and equal possibilities
In his memorable speech in Memphis on the eve of his death, Martin Luther King expressed in clear terms the urgency and necessity of non-violence: ‘Men for years now have been talking about war and peace. Now no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and non-violence in this world, it is non-violence or non-existence”…