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Peace activist speaks at College

Rebecca O'Neil | Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Even as the country annually celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s namesake with a holiday, Americans are betraying the vision of King envisioned, Kroc Institute scholar and peace activist Rashied Omar said in a lecture at Saint Mary’s on Tuesday.

King took a firm stand against racism, materialism and militarism, Omar said.

“[He was] an American prophet. He was a patriot even if others could not see it,” Omar said. “He thought that if the U.S. changed itself, it had a tremendous potential to spread good.”

Omar said many of King’s hopes for the world have not been realized in the decades following his death.

“If Martin Luther King was alive today, he would want us to be on the right side of the world wide revolution of values,” he said. “It is time to stop thinking about who killed Martin, but who is killing Martin’s dream.”

Omar said society often places value in largely inconsequential matters, which is the opposite of what King preached.

“We are a ‘thing-oriented’ society, but we need to become a ‘person-oriented’ society,” Omar said.

Rashied also said King’s dream of peace is ignored by the American government.

“[King wanted] war money to put food in the wrinkled stomachs of God’s children,” he said. “[America] spends more on military than the next 12 countries combined. This is spiritual death.”

Each year, the sitting president commemorates King, lays a wreath on his grave, and goes right back to war the next day, Omar said.

“There is a street in every town named after him, but people’s actions today betray Martin’s vision, kill the dream,” he said.

King recognized America needed a revival of spirit, Omar said.

“He wanted to redeem the soul of America and have the country act as a responsible member of the world community,” he said.

Omar said King would recognize many societal norms worthy of challenging.

“Today we see legalized prejudices against many minorities, the Hispanic community and gays and lesbians,” he said.

Omar noted modern prophets exist today, such as Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who help recognize points in society worthy of change.

“[They are] the moral conscious of society, not only electing leaders but holding them accountable,” he said. “They challenged the injustice of the status quo.”

When Barrack Obama ran for president, he campaigned on a platform containing aspects of a modern prophet, Omar said.

“[He highlighted] the move towards change, we needed hope,” he said. “When he came to power however, the movement retired.”