At MLK prayer breakfast, speaker asks: 'What are we doing to help others?'

sgilman@newsobserver.comJanuary 20, 2014 

— Martin Luther King Jr. was “one of the greatest prophets of the 20th century,” whose message of cross-racial peace parallels Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan, Otis Moss told a hundreds of people gathered early Monday morning for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Triangle Interfaith Prayer Breakfast.

Moss, delivering the keynote address, said King frequently quoted the parable that Jesus told a young lawyer about the man beaten by robbers and left to die. Religious men passed by and did not help, but a Samaritan – held in contempt by Jews of the time – stopped and bandaged the man’s wounds and took him to an inn.

Moss, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, then urged members of the crowd at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel to help their neighbors and to reclaim the message of King, saying, “We have de-radicalized the legacy of this man.”

That theme of looking out for those in need played out through speeches, music selections and prayers from members of various faiths in the Triangle who attended the 34th annual prayer breakfast. Others joined Moss in his call to keep King’s message alive, and several gave public prayers in line with his vision of peace.

“We all must ask ourselves the question Dr. King asked many years ago: ‘What are we doing to help others?’ ” WRAL-TV news anchor Gerald Owens said to open the event. Owens called guests to “listen, reflect, and, of course, unite. And then leave here ready to serve.”

Rabbi Lucy Dinner of the Jewish Temple Beth Or in Raleigh offered a “prayer for the less fortunate”; Misaeil Abou El Kheir, priest at St. Mary Coptic Egyptian Church in Raleigh, offered a “prayer for world peace”; and Marian Dessent of the Bahá’í Faith Assembly in Durham offered a “prayer for equality and reconciliation.”

Moss’ address focused on the enduring legacy of King. He quoted King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, where he refers to the promissory note of the authors of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence “that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the ‘unalienable rights’ of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ ... America has given the Negro people a bad check.”

Moss said the same problem exists in America today. He pointed at the economic gap in America, where some have plentiful access to “education, culture and intellectual stimulation,” and some “move from home to home, sleep from couch to couch.” Inequality in health care and educational opportunities still plague this country, he said.

“The dirty word in America today is poverty – economic apartheid cooked in the cesspool of racialized imagination,” he said.

He closed by urging the crowd to help their neighbors, saying, “Do not raise the question, ‘What will happen to me if I help that man?’ ” Ask instead, ‘What will happen to that man if I do not help him?’ 

Assuring the crowd that God can use anyone, Moss again quoted King: “Let us not be satisfied until the lion and the lamb lie down together.”

Gilman: 919-829-8955

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