One of the most memorable moments in my life was when I was introduced to Dr. Martin Luther King.
I remember when I was an undergraduate student completing a homework assignment given to me by my professor. Little did I know I would be introduced to a man who would impact my life forever. I remember sitting on a chair in front of a small TV screen with headphones with another student watching a film about the history of the Civil Rights movement in the United States, Eyes on the Prize.
As I started watching the film, I realized that I was witnessing the impact of one man's struggle, vision and leadership on my own life. As a new student to the US and a Sudanese-born student, I felt the connection between the struggle of Martin Luther King Jr. and myself. I began realizing that I could relate to him and his struggle. It was an extremely humbling experience as I realized I was benefitting from the effort of his hard work and dedication to creating an America that respects people of all faiths, creeds, races and ethnicities.
I looked across to the other student (who was Caucasian), with whom I was watching the film with, and I realized that I was witnessing one of the most beautiful aspects of America: its tolerance and respect for those who may seem "different."
For America to overcome racism and utter hatred of the "other," due to the work of one man is truly inspiring. I truly feel that America has its moments of conflict, confusion, and chaos, but eventually the truly great values, morals and principles overcome the darkness of ignorance, violence and intolerance. Especially for one man to stand up to injustice, intolerance, and bigotry resonates in my own religious faith and in the faiths of Christianity and Judaism. In Judaism, Moses (peace be upon him) stood up to the injustice of Pharoah, Jesus (peace be upon him) stood up for the poor, needy and neglected and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stood up for the poor, oppressed and neglected in the Meccan society.
The truly inspiring words of Dr. Martin Luther King, an exceptionally eloquent speaker, captured my attention. He used holy texts to relate to his audience in addressing the political situations and social problems of his time in a society where the majority adheres to the Christian faith. Yet through his wisdom he simultaneously addressed humanity in its entirety. By using the holy texts he tried to awaken the universal values and the principal of equality that is called for by all religions. His words reminded me of the verse in the Quran:
"O Mankind, we have created you in tribes and nations so that you may know one and other, and the most honorable of you in the eyes of God are those who are most conscious of God." (Chapter 49:13)
The belief in social, economic and racial equality is one that all three monotheistic religions believe in and Dr. King reminded America and the world of those beliefs through religious texts. When individuals say religion is the cause of wars and violence, they need not look far to see in fact it is not true and see the inspirational and very world-changing work of Dr. King.
It is with the same belief Mr. King had in a better tomorrow we must overcome religious bigotry, intolerance, hate, violence in not only America, but the world. Let us never underestimate the power of one man or woman in changing the lives of millions of people and creating a better future for generations to come.
We face many struggles as a nation today, but must remember to always believe in a better tomorrow and remember that while Dr. King is gone his message still resonates with us today:
"Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: -- 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"