h1

A call to speak against injustice

4 November 2009

The following poem was written by Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller (14 January 1892 – 6 March 1984). Niemöller was a prominent German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor. The poem about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller

The message is rather simple and direct – a call to speak out against the injustices against other people. In 1966, Robert F. Kennedy addressing a South African audience also reminded them, and us that the great social justice movements begin with one person, and sitting back will only see the social injustice grow.

First is the danger of futility; the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills — against misery, against ignorance, or injustice and violence. Yet many of the world’s great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation, a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth, and a young woman reclaimed the territory of France. It was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and 32-year-old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are created equal. “Give me a place to stand,” said Archimedes, “and I will move the world.” These men moved the world, and so can we all.

Robert F. Kennedy “Day of Affirmation”, speech,
University of Capetown, South Africa (1966-06-06)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: