IN OCTOBER 2004, CORETTA SCOTT KING RECEIVED THE Gandhi Peace Award in Atlanta, Georgia. It's not surprising that the widow of slain civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., should be granted such recognition coincidental with the 135th anniversary of Gandhi's birth, because her husband and Gandhi shared similar values and convictions about moving the oppressed out of slavery. So much so that King maintained that while Jesus furnished the Spirit for his life's work, Gandhi furnished the method. Since King's assassination in 1968, his wife has devoted her life to furthering the cause her husband championed.

How could two men from different cultures, separate continents, and dissimilar religions find so much in common? The thread running through their philosophy was the confidence that all people deserve to be free and that this right can be achieved through nonviolence. And both of these men were influenced by Henry David Thoreau's article Civil Disobedience, which argues that one has the right to refuse to obey an unjust law or policy. Inspired by Thoreau, Gandhi and King sought to free their people through acts of nonviolent civil disobedience — one from colonialism in India, the other from racial discrimination in the United States. Both movements had profound and lasting effects.

King observed that there are two kinds of law: just and unjust. He defined an unjust law as one that is out of sync with moral law. His concept of civil disobedience advocated bringing to light the injustice of laws that keep people in bondage. While King gained much from Gandhi regarding methodology, it was King's Christian faith that was the impetus for his life — "the spirit that quickeneth," as Jesus put it (John 6:63).

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January 17, 2005

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