On May 12, 1961, in Rock Hill, South Carolina. John Lewis, an African-American seminary student, and Albert Bigelow, a World War II veteran and white Freedom Rider, were viciously attacked as they attempted to enter a whites-only waiting area. Two days later, in Anniston, Alabama, a vicious mob of about 200 people bombed a Greyhound bus and brutally beat the Freedom Riders as they fled the burning bus. Later that day in Birmingham, Alabama, a Trailways bus carrying another Freedom Riders group was meant with a similar fate. These Freedom Riders were aware of the dangers they would encounter, and over several months they were attacked repeatedly. Yet, they persevered so that the racist practice of segregated bus terminals would come to an end. In the fall of 1961, their perseverance bore fruit as the Interstate Commerce Commission issued regulations that prohibited interstate transit segregation.
THE FREEDOM RIDERS STEPPED INTO THE GAP.
Through nonviolent protests, Liu Xiaobo was a human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate from China who fought against communist one-party rule in China. For his efforts, he was imprisoned from 1989 to 1991, 1995 to 1996, 1996 to 1999, and 2009 until his release in 2017 after being diagnosed with liver cancer. He died less than three weeks after his release. Despite his multiple imprisonments, he continued to fight until his death to better the Chinese people.
LIU XIAOBO STEPPED INTO THE GAP.
Razan Zaitouneh was a Syrian Human rights activist who was involved in the Syrian uprising. She acted as a lawyer for political prisoners and was one of the founders Human Rights Association in Syria and the Syrian Human Rights Information Link. She reported about Syria’s human rights violations. Razan Zaitouneh worked tirelessly for years to bring light to Syria’s oppressive regime despite the obvious dangers involved with doing so. On December 9 of 2013, she was kidnapped and has not been seen since, presumed to have been killed.
RAZAN ZAITOUNEH STEPPED INTO THE GAP.
Michael Todd has been getting bullied at his new school since the year began. He would wear the same clothes every day, and students at MLK College Preparatory School would make fun of him for it. High school football players Kristopher Graham and Antwann Garrett didn’t just go along with their classmates to be part of the crowd. On September 10, 2019, they surprised Michael with a bag full of bags full of shirts, shorts, and shoes and apologized to him for previously laughing at him.
KRISTOPHER GRAHAM AND ANTWANN GARRETT STEPPED INTO THE GAP
Every day countless individuals step into the gap. But sadly, many in a position to do the most good lack the courage to step into the gap. Last week at church, my pastor preached to us from the book Ezekiel 22:30 “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land so that I would not destroy it, but I found no one.
In Bible times, cities had walls around them to help defend them from attack. Broken parts of the wall created a physical gap in the city’s ability to protect itself from invading armies. In this Bible verse, because there is a gap in the wall, God is looking for someone to step in and guard the broken, vulnerable territory.
Today God is still looking for us to step in and guard the broken and the vulnerable. Victims of violence, oppression, discrimination, bigotry. Those who are denied fundamental human rights such as medical care, food and shelter, and education. Yet when we turn our eyes to Washington D.C., we find there are far too many concerned with themselves own self, maintaining their power, and reaping the benefits that come along with it than with stepping into the gap. We see children, the Lord’s most innocent souls, gunned down in mass shootings, yet no action has been taken to enact sensible gun control to protect them. We see mothers and fathers working two and three jobs, sixty and seventy hours a week, yet still unable to earn enough money to put a roof over or adequately feed their families. Yet, at every opportunity, the very social programs designed to help them through these troubled times are slashed, and more and more money is appropriated to building weapons of war. Racism is unbelievably on the rise again in this country. Still, far too many in power either pretend it doesn’t exist and ignore it or, worse, tacitly give their approval, so they can appeal to a base of unenlightened individuals they believe will allow them to maintain their power. Education budgets are cut, and college tuition soars while tax breaks for the wealthy are passed into law. Prescription drug prices rocket, inflating the pharmaceutical companies’ pockets while the affordable care act remains under constant attack. The gap between the haves and have not continued to expand as CEOs take home millions and workers struggle to survive, yet steadfast opposition to raising the minimum wage continues.
We are witnessing the abject failure of the very individuals we have tasked with stepping in the gap. However, it is never too late as a people to change things. United, each of our whispers becomes a mighty roar for change. We can demand that change takes place, and we can start at the voting booth. We can educate ourselves on the issues and not let some 24-hour news network “opinion” show host skew our perception of reality. We can protest racism and social injustice, and when those in power try to change the narrative and quiet us, we can roar louder. We can rise as one and let our voices be heard. We can tell them that we, not them, are the coalition of the many, and if they don’t stand in the gap, we will surely find someone who will!