“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail
People across this nation celebrated the 88th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in many ways, and in O’Fallon, about 200 people gathered at New Life in Christ Interdenominational Church for the Eighth Annual O’Fallon-Metro East NAACP Community Martin Luther King breakfast where Msgr. William Hitpas spoke. Msgr. Hitpas is pastor of St. Nicholas in O’Fallon and St. Joseph in Lebanon.
Describing both young black men and police as victims of the assault on life that has become more and more visible in this country, Msgr. Hitpas said people don’t look at them as parents, husbands or children. They’re seen as an enemy.
He called those in the media who peddle their opinions as news, “feeding and fueling the angers of people” who listen or watch their programs. They “promote anger and division,” he said.
This is not the nonviolence advocated by Dr. King, not the inclusiveness he called for.
While Dr. King is remembered as the quintessential civil rights leader, he was a minister, “a man of prayer.” And before Dr. King had a dream, Msgr. Hitpas said, “God had a dream.” And God’s dream, spoken through his Son, spoke of “compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation.”
Dr. King made his dream that of a nation. But today, this nation is far different from the one in which he lived. The dream is also passed to a nation that today grapples with the issues of racism and division that has never been conquered.
People chose different ways to honor Dr. King’s legacy, including offering the day in service to others.
Msgr. Hitpas suggested “we can honor Martin Luther King by bringing light and truth” to the world. Truth is not an easy virtue to pursue, and Msgr. Hitpas said “we find virtue with an honest conscience.”
People must listen to find the “voice of God” leading us to the truth, and “God’s voice is quiet.” Msgr. Hitpas encouraged people to look to the past “and own our sins. Conscience looks to the past and to the future. Only when we admit the sins of the past can we be open to a brighter future.”
Calling white America to “own” its sins, he also called black men to stop holding on to their role as victims. And while he commended the white police, he also recognized that some brought prejudice to work with them every day. That needs to change.
“Dr. King would demand that we deal with this. We will never have reconciliation until we move from the courtroom to the confessional,” Msgr. Hitpas said.
Being honest is the first step, he said, with dialogue the second step. “It’s hard work to listen to another’s viewpoint that is not our own; it takes great discipline.” Justice comes with dialogue, not self-serving dominance or capitulation. Weapons of hate promote death and property damage, not love and peace.
Truth and love can be our only weapons,” he said.
Pastor at New Life in Christ Church, Bishop Geoffrey V. Dudley Sr., thanked Msgr. Hitpas, saying everyone in the room should hear his words as a challenge and step up to that challenge to seek the truth and respond in a way that benefits all.