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Christian leaders respond to King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’

Catholic World News - January 21, 2011

In April 1963, eight Alabama clergymen, including a Catholic auxiliary bishop, wrote “A Call for Unity,” a letter urging an end to a “series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders.” Four days later, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. responded with his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Nearly five decades later, Christian Churches Together in the USA-- an ecumenical forum of which the US bishops are a part-- have responded to King’s letter. The CCT-USA leaders expressed “profound gratitude to the leaders of the civil rights movement” and stated that “some of us have not progressed far enough beyond the initial message from the Birmingham clergy … In the spirit of this loving Jesus, and in the spirit of those who committed their very lives to that love, we renew our struggle to end racism in all forms.”

“During the struggles of the civil rights movement, Birmingham was one of the most segregated and violent cities in America,” commented Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin. “I had the opportunity to visit these places; however, most significant to me were the stories and personal testimony given by those who suffered the injustices of racism and segregation. These individuals were filled with prophetic courage, even to the point of sacrificing their own personal safety to bring about equality and justice. Their non-violent efforts to confront racism are deeply rooted in Gospel values that all men and women, regardless of color, are created in the likeness and image of God and, therefore, worthy of respect and dignity.”

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