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Hoping for a change

Rich Mayfield

Bobby Frank Cherry was sentenced this past week to four life sentences for his part in the bombing deaths of four young girls. The girls were killed as they were attending Sunday School in the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.

Cherry, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, spent the past 38 years occasionally bragging of his heinous crime to those he thought sympathetic to his cause. This was his undoing. His listeners were less sympathetic than he suspected and one after another testified against him.

Bobby Frank Cherry thought his action against these innocent children would frighten away those who sought a just and integrated society. It did precisely the opposite. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached at the girls’ funeral. His words resonated not just in Birmingham but around the world: “This tragic event may cause the white South to come to terms with its conscience.” If there is a point in the history of the Civil Rights Movement where we can show the tide of public opinion turning, this was it. All across America, citizens, who may have been leaning, consciously or not, toward the old standard of segregation, now found themselves utterly repulsed by the atrocity. Public sentiment began to change and the war for racial justice moved closer toward victory.

Lately I have been wondering when such a change will occur again, this time not in the American South, but the Muslim World. The horror of Sept. 11 has been met, I am afraid, with little revulsion by much of the Islamic world. Indeed, reports continue out of Cairo, Islamabad, Manila and elsewhere of continued celebrations of this act of violence against innocent people. Surely millions of moderate Muslims are as repulsed by this outrageous act as Americans were by Bobby Frank Cherry’s 38 years ago.

So why aren’t we hearing about it? Why aren’t Muslim clerics coming to the forefront, day after day, condemning an interpretation of Islam that is not only wrong but lethal?

In the tumult of the ’60s, African-Americans were mightily tempted to turn toward violence in their battle against racial injustice. Stokley Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, The Black Panthers and many, many others sought violent means to achieve their goals. But braver men and women stood strong. Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis, Roy Wilkins and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to name but a few, risked their lives daily as they boldly spoke out against the futility of violence.

Where are those brave men and women of Islam?

I hope that it is my own ignorance of the Muslim world that prevents me from hearing these needed voices. I hope that it is the bias of the media that disallows our learning of an active Islamic peace movement. I hope that in villages all across the world, Muslims are reacting to the calls for violence against innocent people with not only revulsion, but a commitment to work for peace.

I hope.

Rich Mayfield is pastor of the Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church and regular columnist for the Summit Daily News.

Snow-fueled accidents led to a 2-hour closure of Vail Pass Friday morning. The whiteout conditions also caused difficulty for emergency vehicles attemption to respond to the accidents, and in some cases drivers had to approach accidents in the opposite lane of traffic as jackknifed semis blocked the highway.|Summit Daily/Karin Prescott|


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