WASHINGTON - Denial and amnesia are currently taking over the context of civil rights in this nation, according to Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter, Bernice King, who spoke to Latino leaders at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) Justice Summit to urge them to continue their fight against social injustices in their communities.
"You're talking about taking on some monumental things: immigration reform, poverty and human sex trafficking, and these things don't happen overnight," said King. "There has to be a commitment that shows you're in it for the long haul. You can't go weary because in due season, you're going to reap if you don't faint."
Her message culminated the summit that brought together Hispanic leaders from around the country to address the most prevalent issues that their churches and people face today. Immigration reform was a heavily discussed topic throughout the event and one that King took on to encourage pastors to raise their level of commitment for, while warning that their fight will continue to be a struggle until change occurs.
"When I look at the future of civil rights and Christianity, it's going to require extreme sacrifice and understanding that there will be a price that some will have to pay. That cost may not always be someone losing their life but that's the way of the cross," said King.
She said the conversation about civil rights and its relation to Christianity hardly ever takes place without also talking about her father's legacy.
"The last time that we saw significant social change that was not merely people revolting against a system, but people who were revolting in such a way that their efforts and actions amounted to change in people and in institutions, was the movement led by my father," said King.
People forget or do not acknowledge, as she put it, that her father's fight for equality was not a civil rights movement, even though it is labeled as such.
"He wasn't a civil rights leader but a prophet of God who was sent and assigned to the area of civil and human rights," said King.
At the inception of his movement, King says her father understood his role as a man of God. In fact, in his first message when he accepted his leadership position in the movement, he said he was going to rely on and utilize the word of God in his struggle against social injustice.
In the same manner that her father dedicated his life to God, instead of a cause, King said Christians who want change should model the same approach in their fight, otherwise disillusionment takes over.
"NHCLC, you're troubled by so much, but when the leaders of Christ get together and stand on a foundation, every place that the soles of their feet touch upon, God says that's yours," said King.
Nothing in the world will have a lasting impact until Christians commit to "lay down their lives," she said, while adding that the movement of social justice will also require people to go against the grain and often times, against secular laws.
She emphasized that people should be law abiding citizens, however, in the fight against inequality, there is a higher, moral law that requires obedience over the laws of the land. But there are consequences that will be paid, she stressed.
"There are those who say evangelicals should have no place with social injustice dealings but I know you know better," said King.
She added, "This is about doing what's right in the eyes of God for the masses of people, and it's about who is going to be there and stand in the gap and ensure that the masses of people are liberated; and recognize that true liberation occurs not just when those who are oppressed are liberated but when the oppressor is transformed and reconciliation occurs."