Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, who had just returned from an antiwar protest in London, challenged audience members at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel Thursday evening to look past the pro-war rhetoric and remember the biblical Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have done unto you. Jackson's talk, part of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel's series on religion and violence, focused on the pending war with Iraq.
"The goal is not that the lambs overthrow the lions. The goal is that the lambs and the lions work together," Jackson said recalling a biblical verse, "When the extremes find a common ground, they [the lion and the lamb] will lie down together."
As a means of achieving this end, Jackson has been in contact throughout his career with leaders around the world. Recently, in a letter to Saddam Hussein, Jackson asked that Iraq replace secrecy with transparency. While Jackson has yet to hear back from Hussein, representatives from the region have since communicated with him.
"Iraq's in a very defensive mode. The cycle of kill and be killed must be broken by some force civil," Jackson said, calling on the United States to pursue an alternative to war. "I hope that one of our appeals to Saddam and to Bush will be heard."
Jackson, who believes we should pursue "co-existence over co-annihilation," recounted three experiences in which his conversations with men most would consider tyrants brought about positive change.
"I took Castro to church. The result was freed prisoners. I went to Serbia and spoke to Milosevic. Milosevic freed three prisoners. I brought 600 victims out of Baghdad because I took the risk of talking to Hussein," he said.
Jackson, whose mentors include Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi, related memories from the civil rights movement and drew parallels to the antiwar protests in London and around the world. "A new global peace movement has been born," he said. "The people rose up to peace."
Recalling Martin Luther King Jr's. last birthday in 1968 when King called friends and family together in a church in Atlanta, Jackson spoke of the need to pursue peaceful solutions in Iraq.
"He spent his own last birthday to fight poverty and enforce civil rights laws," Jackson said. "What would Jesus do now? I do not think that dropping 800 missiles over Baghdad would be his answer."
Jackson believes that without an imminent threat to world peace, the United States is not justified in attacking Iraq.
"[Hussein's] not a threat to Iran, to the Persian Gulf, or to Europe," he said. "Saddam Hussein is not liked, he also is not feared as much as al Qaeda. Iraq is no threat to its neighbors unless it is attacked."
Jackson called this time of crisis an opportunity for audience members and people in general to speak out on their beliefs. "Together we can change history," he said.
Whatever solution is finally reached, Jackson contends it must be a compromise: "No one can fully search for victory in this conflict."
Jackson concluded: "We must do a difficult thing. We must live together."
Third-year in the College Jenna Anderson was glad to have Jackson on campus speaking about an issue as pressing as Iraq. "I feel that Jesse Jackson is a cultural icon and I feel it's necessary to hear him when he speaks," she said.