Newcastle unites in celebration of peace

Representatives of different faiths will come together in Newcastle city centre to make a physical chain of peace, inspired by the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s visit to the city.

In keeping with Dr King’s view that love is ‘the unifying principle of life’, leaders from the Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu communities will gather near the top of Grey Street, close to Lloyds Bank, on Thursday 16 November and link arms as a symbol of unity.

Up to 150 people are expected to join the faith leaders and representatives at the event in making the chain and singing songs of peace.

Following this, a Christian service will take place at St Nicholas’ Cathedral, Newcastle, to which people of any faith and none are welcome to attend.

The event has been inspired by a speech that Dr King gave when he came to Newcastle University on 13 November 1967 to receive an honorary degree.

Newcastle was the only UK university to honour Dr King in this way during his lifetime. Remarkably, he took time to visit Newcastle to accept the award and in doing so, made an impromptu speech – his last public address outside of the US before his assassination barely six months later.

During his speech, Dr King imagines a “beautiful symphony of brotherhood” when he challenges us to join him in addressing the three evils of racism, poverty and war that blight the world.

The event has been organised by the Newcastle Chain of Peace, a multi-faith network aiming to foster closer ties between faith groups and the wider community.

Reverend Catherine Lack, Chain of Peace Co-ordinator and Newcastle University chaplain, said: “The struggle against racism, poverty, and war is common to all faiths. Revd King wrote that love lies at the heart of all major religions and believed that different religions working together had the power to play a major role in establishing peace.

“At a time of rising religious extremism and tension, we wanted to make a tangible gesture that reinforces the message of peace and togetherness that Dr King stood for. This event will draw people from different faiths and different backgrounds together in a very public way as a means to champion greater cooperation and trust between different faiths.”

People of all faiths and none are welcome to attend both the Chain of Peace event on Grey Street, which will start at 4.45pm with peace songs, followed by addresses by the different faith leaders from 5.15pm. The service at St Nicolas’ Cathedral starts at 6pm.

The Right Reverend Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle said: “Three years ago, my husband and I cycled 2,000 miles north up the East Coast of America and at the end of our journey in Washington DC I was lucky enough to stand on the very steps where Dr King delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. As a Christian pastor, his faith inspired him to fight injustice and racial inequality, and this is our opportunity to celebrate the life of a man who succeeded in bringing significant political change across America.”

Coinciding with the Chain of Peace event is a special exhibition of artwork inspired by Dr King that has been created by students at local schools. The exhibition, in the south transept of the cathedral, will run throughout November.

The event is taking place in the same week as the unveiling of a new statue of Dr King on the Newcastle University campus and a special ceremony to award honorary degrees to notable civic rights advocates in recognition of their work to promote equality and social justice.

The events are the culmination of a year-long programme of commemorative events marking the 50th anniversary of Dr King’s visit.

A city-wide programme of cultural events has also been running throughout the year to coincide with the anniversary. Taking place at venues across Tyneside, Freedom City 2017 is diverse programme of exhibitions, drama, art, musical performances and public lectures. Events will run throughout November, and into 2018. To see the full programme, visit www.freedomcity2017.com/