I remember my first visit to Washington DC - a most remarkable city. One of the highlights, after my visit to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, was to stand on the spot where Martin Luther King delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech. I was talking to a friend yesterday who had just come back from Washington and he was telling me about the thrill he had standing on that spot and I was musing over my ow visit.
That moment, 28th August 1963, was an important one in the history of the US and it symbolises the struggle of black people for freedom, expressing the hope that one day all men and women, regardless of colour, would be recognised as equal. That it was uttered by a Christian pastor is no coincidence, because what Dr King had to say emerged from Christ's teaching on the inherent dignity of the human person regardless of what others think or what limitations a state or its ideology try to impose.
That moment was the moment when America faced the reality of her history of oppression - a black man standing in front of the monument of one of the greatest of US Presidents, challenging those who governed the so-called "land of the free". It will be forever etched in the consciousness of the US.
Well, we are coming to such a moment in Ireland, when someone will have to take a stand and challenge those who govern this country to take seriously that intention of the founding fathers and mothers of our Republic to cherish "all the children of the nation equally", as enshrined in the Proclamation of the Republic of Easter 1916. Again, while this idea is in keeping with the ideals of those who fought for freedom in the early years of the 20th century, it too is an expression of Christian teaching: that all children, regardless of colour, state or age, are to be cherished. We carefully note that the Proclamation says that ALL the children of the nation are to be cherished - that includes the unborn, those who are the most vulnerable.
Will we see a moment in the near future, when a public figure, a Churchman perhaps, will stand at the GPO, at the very spot the Proclamation was read for the first time, and challenge this government to stay true to the ideals of our founding fathers and mothers, to protect innocent human life? We can but hope.
We have a lot to learn from Dr King and his allies, particularly Rosa Parks who, in making what seemed like a small gesture, set the fire for the eventual collapse of apartheid in the US. Remember that our small gestures in favour of life may well be as significant.
Whether our public representatives want to acknowledge it or not: abortion is the civil rights issue of our time.