The anthems of protesters from Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement to James Russell Lowell Once to Every Time and Nation – composed to contest slavery and sung against the then military junta in South Korea – and the Hallelujah chorus of Hong Kong’s brave citizens contesting attempts to subvert their autonomy and the rule of law.

The protesters in Hong Kong have taken to singing Hallelujah as their unofficial anthem:-

This is reminiscent of the protesters in Seoul who, with great courage, ended the rule of the military junta in South Korea .
During their protests they sung the great nineteenth century hymn composed by the Harvard Law School graduate James Russell Lowell published, a New England poet and campaigner against slavery. It first appeared as a poem in the Boston Courier entitled “Verses Suggested by the Present Crisis”.

The poem was quoted by Martin Luther King in his “We Shall Overcome” speech in 1966 ( (sung here by Joan Baez: and appears in both Catholic and Protestant hymnals. It includes these stanzas:

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble,
When we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit,
And ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses
While the coward stands aside,

May this anthem encourage brave protesters from Hong Kong to Khartoum who are risking their lives defying those who seek to tyrannise them and who remind us never to take our own freedoms for granted.

You can listen to the London Philharmonic Choir singing this great anthem here:

Seoul’s protesters who ended the military dictatorship of South Korea.