Martin Luther is “one of the true fathers of democratic freedom,” the Archbishop of Cape Town told a massive outdoor congregation in Wittenberg, the German town where the Reformation began 500 years ago.

“The histories of both of our countries — that of Germany in the Nazi era, and of South Africa in the apartheid era — are records of unspeakable cruelty,” said the Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba. “But they are also histories of God’s unfailing faithfulness.”

The Reformation was a “defining moment,” and it is still relevant. “He mobilized millions, in an unstoppable movement, to embrace the right to participate,” Makgoba said. “He made it safe to want to be part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Makgoba reminded his listeners of the biblical figure Hagar, who faced a predicament involving poverty, exploitation, rape, and domestic violence. “For any African, Hagar’s story is deeply etched into both our historical DNA and our contemporary experience. Black people generally, but particularly black women in South Africa, know exactly the same realities. They know that in so many contexts, ‘black lives do not matter.’”

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He adapted words from Martin Luther King, Jr. “Like King, I have a dream for the world: that one day soon all the narcissistic, nationalist, isolationist ramblings of our current times will disappear. I have a dream that instead there will arise a global awareness that we are of one humanity.

“I have a dream that we will all sit together to decide: ‘What is in the best interests not of this or that group, but of all of society?’ I have a dream that your children, and mine, will one day live in an Africa and in a world that has an abundance of unlimited and equal access to education, to health care, to water and sanitation and to economic opportunities.”

John Martin

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