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'One man come in the name of love'

To encourage students to stand up for what is right by showing that one person acting in a good and just cause can make a difference.

by Paul Hess

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5

Aims

To encourage students to stand up for what is right by showing that one person acting in a good and just cause can make a difference.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a recording of the U2 song ‘Pride (In the Name of Love)’, which can be found on U2 The Best of 1980–1990. It can either be played as pupils enter or you can start the assembly by playing the first part of the song once they are seated.
  • If possible, display the photograph of the Tiananmen Square Tank Man. It can be found in many places on the Internet.
  • Images of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Gandhi are freely available and would further enhance the presentation.

Assembly

  1. One man come in the name of love . . .  
    One man to overthrow.

    Early morning April 4
    Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
    Free at last, they took your life
    They could not take your pride.

    This song by U2 was written in honour of Dr Martin Luther King Jr who was murdered on 4 April 1968.
  2. The point of this song is that while an assassin’s bullet ended Martin Luther King’s life, it could not end his vision, the identity he had shaped for black and white Americans. U2 are saying that the power of love, a power embodied in the life of Martin Luther King, is far greater than the might of weapons, oppression and hatred. Dr King was ‘one man come in the name of love’.
  3. The nationwide protests led by Martin Luther King were initiated by the actions of another courageous person, Rosa Parks. Rosa was an ordinary black woman who, in 1955, was living in the highly segregated town of Montgomery, Alabama, in the USA. One day, as she was travelling home from work on a crowded bus, she was ordered to give up her seat to make room for white passengers. Tired of the humiliations inflicted on the black community over the years, she refused. The conductor was staggered by her defiance and she was arrested.

    Rosa Parks’ action led to the Montgomery bus boycott, which was a springboard for the whole civil rights struggle. Rosa Parks was ‘one woman come in the name of love’.
  4. On 5 June 1989 the tanks of the Chinese army rolled ominously into Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. Their goal was to crush the pro-democracy demonstrations by students and other activists, which had been breaking out throughout China in the spring of that year.

    Suddenly, to the amazement of all around, one man emerged from the crowd – and stood directly in front of one of the tanks! One ordinary man stopped the might of the feared Chinese army! When the tank tried to go round him, he moved to block it. Eventually, he climbed on to the tank to talk to the driver.

    No one knows for sure what happened to the man, who has become known as the ‘Tank Man’, but his action showed the power of the human spirit to resist tyranny. He was ‘one man come in the name of love’.
  5. This, too, was the power of Mahatma Gandhi – the humble little man in peasant’s clothes who, armed only with the weapons of love, peace and justice, brought the mighty British Empire to its knees. Gandhi believed passionately that if his cause was a just one he would win – no matter how powerful the forces against him. He famously said: ‘Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.’ Gandhi was ‘one man come in the name of love’.
  6. At the heart of the Christian faith there is also ‘one man come in the name of love’. Jesus enters Jerusalem knowing that it is there that he will come into conflict with the might of the Roman Empire and face the fury of the Jewish religious establishment. And so he comes armed – armed with the weapons of love, forgiveness and peace – and he comes riding the humble donkey.

    Into a world of division and barbarism and violence – a world, in other words, not unlike our own – comes the Prince of Peace, whose power lies not in military might but in selfless love. And here’s the thing: his kingdom, established by the power of love, rather than bullets, has lasted far longer and been far more influential than the kingdom of any military conqueror?

Time for reflection

What are you and I prepared to do in the name of love?
Do we have even a fraction of the courage of the Tank Man
or Rosa Parks
or Martin Luther King
or Gandhi?
Can we walk with Jesus on the way of the cross?

In the face of a world of greed, violence and oppression;
here at school in the face of the bully and the aggressor
or in the face of those who simply do not care –
what will you and I do in the name of love?

Prayer
Lord,
give us vision that we may see a better world,
and give us courage that we may act to make it happen.
Amen.

Music

‘Christ’s is the world’ (‘A touching place’) (Hymns Old and New (2004), 89)
Listen to U2 as the students leave the assembly.

Publication date: July 2011   (Vol.13 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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