All Power to the Peaceful

On Birmingham Sunday, a noise shook the ground
And people all over the earth turned around
For no one recalled a more cowardly sound
And the choirs kept singing of freedom…

Both tragic events happened on the 15thof the month, one on a Sunday morning before church services inside a Christian Baptist Church and the other on a Friday afternoon during open worship inside two Muslim mosques. One of the events resulted in the deaths of four young girls of the congregation, the other in the deaths of 50 young and old faithful followers.

Both events were cold-blooded, calculated acts of murder committed by believers in the supremacy of the European race and the inferiority of dark-skinned “others”, with the added hope of sparking a race war between them. Both tragedies shocked the conscience of people around the world, jolting them out of any sense of complacency they may have been in regarding the deadly violence of white supremacists.

The Birmingham Sunday bombing took place on 15 September 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, while the Christchurch Friday massacre happened just recently on 15 March 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Both sets of killings left our world forever changed. Both were, to quote the late writer and musician Richard Fariña in his 1965 song “Birmingham Sunday” — from which lyrics are excerpted here — a most cowardly sound.

Mass killings are always cowardly acts, but the murder of innocent worshippers during hours of communion with God are especially so. To step into a holy place and inject death and destruction within its sacred walls is nothing short of cowardice of a very evil kind.

And yet, if you were to ask the FPOTUS (Fake President of the United States), Donald Trump, as some in the media did, his opinion about the recent Christchurch massacre, he would say that he sees no big problem in the rise of white supremacy in the world. Perhaps because he himself is one of those white supremacist types.

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern — now there is a world leader who rose to the occasion after the killings on Christchurch Friday and showed us all how the aftermath of a neo-fascist act of terror should be handled. She had gun-control laws tightened. She stood steadfastly by the Muslim community. She condemned the Australian gunman who carried out the killings, even to the point of refusing to utter his name in public and denying him the media notoriety he sought. FPOTUS Trump has much to learn from prime minister Ardern.

The initial shock of the Christchurch massacre is now subsiding and surviving members of the Muslim community there are somehow starting to resume their shattered lives. But as the Birmingham Sunday killings have showed us more than a half-century later, time never fully heals those deep wounds. A massacre is a massacre is a massacre, and when an individual criminal or group of criminals inflicts deep pain on innocent victims in a house of religious and spiritual worship, it affects us all as part of the human family. It can be no other way.

Power to the people? Yes, that old fist-pumping phrase from the turbulent 1960s and 1970s has its place in social justice issues. But in honoring today those who perished on Birmingham Sunday and on Christchurch Friday, I prefer another one: Power to the peaceful — “power” in this sense also including the spiritual kind of power that we all have inside us to do good. I say, power to those who live out the nonviolent creed of their religious faiths with compassion and brotherhood/sisterhood every day. Power to those who love their neighbor as they would have their neighbor love them in return. Power to those who unite people through love and peace, instead of dividing by hate and war.

All power to the peaceful people of the world.

The Sunday has come, the Sunday has gone
I can’t do much more than to sing you a song
I’ll sing it so softly, it’ll do no one wrong
And the choirs keep singing of freedom…

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