The NC Council of Churches is proud to publish a brand new e-book collection of testimonies from Moral Mondays. With 32 short vignettes from North Carolinians across the state, Voices of Moral Mondays tells the story of everyday folks being motivated to speak out on account of their faith. Many, though not all, of the accounts describe what it was like to engage in civil disobedience and be arrested by the authorities. Click here to download the free e-book.
By Wojciech Szczerba, Evangelical Protestant Seminary, Wroclaw, Poland
Editor’s Note: Dr. Wojciech Szczerba is the rector of the Evangelical Protestant Seminary in Wroclaw, Poland. He was in Raleigh, with his family, for a two-month sabbatical during the summer of 2013. His powerful reflections on Moral Monday were first shared with us by Art Ross, retired pastor of White Memorial Presbyterian Church, Raleigh, and a member of the board of the seminary in Poland.
Our last important experience, besides the Pit today, was Moral Monday. I remember demonstrations in Poland in the beginning of the 1980s, when communism began to shake to its foundations, with lots of police, blood and violence. I remember being in Moscow in ‘91 when Gorbachev was nearly overthrown by Lanaiev and seeing tanks, soldiers and riots at the Red Square. I remember visiting Cairo in 2012 and experiencing demonstrations there with hundreds and thousands of people fighting for survival and dignity. All these dramatic experiences shaped me somehow as a person but also helped me to appreciate the peace which we enjoy at the moment.
So, when I was invited to Moral Monday by friends in North Carolina, obviously I wanted to go to see American demonstrations, but – frankly – one of the first questions, which came to my mind was how safe it was for my family and me. Not really trusting the assurances that we would be fine there, we went to the Mall ready to evacuate in case the police or even army intervened. Well, nothing like this happened, as you best know. To my surprise we came to a picnic-type atmosphere with surely hundreds or even thousands of demonstrators with important and dramatic appeals, but presented in a peaceful and nice atmosphere. I was astonished to see a pastor leading the crowd and religious language being applied (unthinkable in Europe now).
I was amazed with the commonly made references to the civil rights movement. I was surprised to see many families with little kids. And most of all I did not expect to see policemen smiling and talking to the demonstrators in a friendly way. I could hardly believe in what I saw. I kept asking myself what it was. How- ever, in time, my initial disbelief and skepticism gradually gave way to a different feeling. I realized that this was a good example of one of the ways how stable, democratic society talks, conducts inner dialogue in a peaceful way initiated long ago by Gandhi, then carried on by Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the others.
It was a good example to me of how people can peacefully execute their rights, can talk about important issues, appeal for changes and how society with its various factions really strengthens its identity. It was a good lesson for me and my kids, and I thank God that I had the opportunity to be there, that I could listen to the speeches and songs, that I could see those who chose to be dis- obedient even at the cost of being arrested. Thank you for this example. I hope the appeals and demonstrations will in time bring changes to the society.