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Martin Luther King

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5


To look at how one person stood up for his beliefs because he wanted to create a fair and just world.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and four readers.

  • If possible, find a group of staff or students who care passionately about something and are willing to come up and say a sentence or two about their cause or campaign. For example, they could speak about a charity or a hobby.

  • You may wish to display the statements given at the start of this assembly, in which case you will also need the means to do so.

    - I support Amnesty International by letter-writing because I think human rights need protecting.
    - I supported Friends of the Earth by taking part in a demonstration against genetically modified crops because I think we should be taking care of the Earth.

  • Optional: you may wish to display pictures, posters or information about different groups, such as Friends of the Earth, Amnesty International, Christian Aid and Oxfam.


Leader: What do you care passionately about? What do you think needs to be changed in our world? What would you be prepared to give up your time for in order to help make the world a better place?

Here’s what some people say . . .

If you have been able to gather a group of staff or students to speak about a cause, ask them to do so now. If not, display the following statements.

- I support Amnesty International by letter-writing because I think human rights need protecting.
- I supported Friends of the Earth by taking part in a demonstration against genetically modified crops because I think we should be taking care of the Earth.

Christians believe that the Bible has provided great inspiration for many of those fighting for a better world. This Biblical vision of justice and peace was influential in the thinking and actions of Martin Luther King. We can see echoes of it in his famous speech, ‘I have a dream . . .’, made in 1963.

Reader 1: I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

Reader 2: I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

Reader 3: I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama . . . little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

Reader 4: I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Leader: Martin Luther King knew that the situation in Alabama was unjust. The segregation of black and white people on buses and in parks, the denial to black people of the right to vote, the discriminatory treatment in the courts and the barring of black people from higher education were all examples of gross injustice.

King had been brought up in a Christian home and had trained as a Christian pastor, so he knew that the Bible said, in Genesis 1.27, that human beings had been made in the image of God. The violent actions of the Ku Klux Klan, a secret terrorist movement that sought to guarantee white supremacy, were fundamentally wrong because they disregarded this teaching.

Martin Luther King’s Christian faith taught him that, as a human being, he was a child of God and was therefore valuable and had dignity. He knew the teaching in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (3.26–28, New Revised Standard Version): ‘you are all children of God through faith . . . There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’ In other words, external differences are of no consequence in the Christian faith: all are equal.

Martin Luther King knew that he had to act on this belief and that his actions had to be peaceful. That is how the non-violent peace marches and bus boycotts came to take place. His ministry was ended by the violence of an assassin, but the inspiration of his Christian faith and actions are still being felt today. His is a triumph that has remained beyond his death: the message of equality and the value of each human life.

Time for reflection

Let us say the Lord’s Prayer together. At the words, ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’, think about the challenge facing each one of us to make this a reality and for it not to be just an empty phrase.


When I needed a neighbour (Come and Praise, 65)

Follow-up ideas

  • Martin Luther King was influenced by Gandhis message of satyagraha, a word that Gandhi used for non-violent resistance, as a way to combat problems. King knew that holding violent protests in retaliation for the institutionalized racist violence of the State would reduce the supporters to the same moral level as those in the wrong. He was a pacifist, but this does not mean he was passive. King recognized that the only way to fight racism was to organize non-violent resistance.

    Find out about:

    – Gandhi and his views on non-violence
    – the bus boycott in America and the pressures, including economic ones, that this action inflicted on whites

    Did either of these protest actions have the intended effect?

  • In his ‘I have a dream . . .’ speech, Martin Luther King said:

    ‘In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

    Compare these words with what Jesus says in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26.47–56). Imagine some situations in which hatred is expressed, such as where UN peacekeeping forces are needed, at football matches or where there is inner-city unrest. Consider the outcomes of meeting such hatred with:

    – violence
    – non-violence

  • St Teresa of Avila said, Christ has . . . no hands but yours.

    Each person has different gifts and can contribute in different ways. In small groups, identify some causes that each person could do something about and make a difference. Ask the students to look at what could be done to affect their own group, the neighbourhood or the wider world in a positive way. Then, come together again to think about what has been discussed in the small groups. Which things are best done by individuals and which are more effective when done by groups?
Publication date: February 2018   (Vol.20 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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