A look at the church’s role in Civil Rights activism then and now

MEMPHIS, Tenn. —Racial unity is an issue that remains just as urgent 50 years after Dr. King's death.

While music may have brought solace to the fight for equality, church congregations remained split during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s lifetime.

"The church was just in a place of being comfortable and not seeking to understand the plight of African-Americans," said Afshin Ziafat, the lead pastor at Providence Church in Frisco, TX.

Racism overrode justice, and, unfortunately, the church carried just as much blame for allowing division to prevail.

"I think it's a tragedy that Christian leaders didn't speak out," said Pastor Ziafat.

As Dr. King rallied for peace, unity and bringing change that he referred to as a dream, opposition was met at every corner.

50 years later, there is still a struggle.

"We've made strides, but it’s disheartening to see that we haven't made tons of progress," said the pastor.

The late Rev. Billy Graham broke the mold during a time when racial tension was swirling by befriending Dr. King and leading a crusade in Chattanooga where women and children of all races sat together and worshiped the Lord.
that was in 1953.

"If you stand for truth, you are going to have opposition," said Pastor Ziafat.

Both King and Graham faced criticism for pushing racial unity.

Now decades later the crusade continues with new challenges on the horizon.

"I'm hopeful that as a church we are getting there. We're asking those questions and seeking to understand. I have hope for the future," said Pastor Ziafat.

More than 60 speakers are in town for the ethics and religious liberty commission and the gospel coalition special event being held at the convention center.