“I have a dream… I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” It was August 1963. At the height of the civil rights protests in the USA. Dr Martin Luther King gave a speech in Washington. A powerful speech against hatred, against racism, against segregation, for justice, for equality, for integration. A speech that has inspired millions of people all over the world. To dream of a different future. And not just to dream. But to strive to make that future a reality.
Imagine if Martin Luther King had been a Palestinian. What would Dr King say? I believe his speech would be the same. Let me quote a few sentences from his speech in 1963. Notice how prophetic it is today. I have simply substituted the word Palestinian for Negro.
“Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the [Palestinian’s] Negro’slegitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. There will be neither rest nor tranquility … until the Negro[Palestinian] is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges… We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro[Palestinian] is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality… We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s[Palestinian’s] basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “for whites only.” … No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state[in Al Quds] sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice… I have a dream today. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day… And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”[i]
I too have a dream that one day soon Jerusalem will be free. Free from walls that divide. Free from military occupation. Free from colonisation. Free from annexation. Free from segregation. Free from oppression. Free of racism. But it is not just my dream or perhaps your dream. It is God’s dream. God’s vision. God’s plan for Jerusalem. Over three thousand years ago, the Lord God inspired Psalm 87. What does it say?
“He has founded his city on the holy mountain.
2 The Lordloves the gates of Zion
more than all the other dwellings of Jacob.
3 Glorious things are said of you,
city of God:
4 “I will record Rahab and Babylon
among those who acknowledge me—
Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush—
and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’”
5 Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
“This one and that one were born in her,
and the Most High himself will establish her.”
6 The Lordwill write in the register of the peoples:
“This one was born in Zion.”
7 As they make music they will sing,
“All my fountains are in you.”
Notice Jerusalem is called the “City of God”. It is not the exclusive city of one state. It is not the exclusive city of one race. It is the city of God. And notice three times in three verses the Lord repeats “This one was born in Zion”. What do you normally get when you are born? Citizenship in the land of your birth. That’s right. Citizenship. But the Lord is saying the surrounding nations, if they acknowledge him , he regards them as born in Jerusalem. Now why would the Lord God have to say “this one was born in Zion” three times in three verses? Because God’s people were excluding them. That is why God has to remind them through the prophet Isaiah, “For my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7). All nations. Not one. All nations.
On Palm Sunday, when Jesus approached Jerusalem riding on a donkey, “…he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now if it hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42).
I believe God continues to weep for Jerusalem because those of its citizens who want to build walls to separate, to segregate, to occupy, to oppress, have blinded themselves to God’s purposes for his people, his city, his land. I believe God weeps not only over Jerusalem, but for all his children in the Middle East, as well as those who from a distance, who justify a theology of war and conquest in his name. Jesus promised “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). May God give us the courage and strength to fulfil this role so that Palestinians and all oppressed people will be free. Free at last. Free at last.[ii]
[ii] A speech delivered at the annual Al Quds Day, London, 10 June 2018.