The University Record, January 23, 1996

Middle east ideal place to practicer King's principles

By Bernie DeGroat
News and Information Services

While Martin Luther King Jr. fought for human right s and justice here in the United States, his principles are shared by those fighting for similar basic freedoms in today's Middle East.

"I think there's no more suitable place in the world than the Middle East to put his claims to the test, "Geoffery Aronson, director of the Foundation for Middle East Peace in Washington, D.C., said last week at a Martin Luther King Day Symposium forum on "Applying Martin Luther King's Principles to the Middle East: Working for Human Rights and Justice.

While Aronson conceded that the Middle East would seem an "awkward welcoming place for the idea of equality and the brotherhood of all people," he said that its distinction as the birthplace of Christianity-"the creed that formed the basis of King's view of the world and inspired his call to racial equality and non-violence"-makes it the ideal place to practice King's principles.

"We have a long way to go in order to realize the ideal that King articulated," Aronson said, "King would certainly have been disheartened by the state of affairs in the Middle East today, but no matter how grim the reality of human rights, Martin Luther King's dogmatic faith in the power and righteous of his beliefs is an important message for thos among us who have an interest in human rights in the Middle East."

Aronson said that fighting for human rights in the Middle East requires hard work and an undaunting commitment to do what is right.

"So often in that part of the world, there's no rational, material basis for hope that regimeswill change or end, that religious discrimination will end, that national oppression will end or that civic life will improve for the majority of the people," he said. "We live with the fear, with the understanding, with the realization that much of what we do may not matter much.

Why do we do this? It isn't with concrete hope or expectation that things are actually going to get better. we do it because it's the right thing to do. You have to revert to a more basic state in the righteousness or the correctness of the cause that you are supporting.

"Like Martin Luther King himself, human rights activists have to do something that I think is quite rare in the 1990s. They must not only believe in, but have the courage of their convictions to seek inspiration and continue to struggle against inequity."

Sponsored by the Center of Middle Eastern and North African Studies and the Department of Near Eastern Studies, the forum also featured U-M alums Karen Kennedy of Amnesty International, Shira Robinson of Human Rights Watch and graduate student Rochelle Davis, who spoke about their experiences as human rights activists.