Saturday, May 27, 2017

Fasting for Peace, in Solidarity with the Palestinian Hunger Strikers and my Interfaith Friends

Although I have made a commitment to fast during Ramadan until there is peace in the Middle East (see Why do I fast?), each year I ask myself, "God, is this really what you want me to do?" 

To be honest, it's hard to go without water and food during the daylight hours, to rise before dawn to pray, and to wait until sunset for one's first meal. I enjoy rising before dawn to pray but by late afternoon, when the hunger and especially the thirst become acute, I sometimes wonder: "Why am I putting myself through this? I'm not a Muslim. I don't have to fast, do I?"

But each year, God lets me know very clearly that yes, it is important for me to be faithful and fast during this holy month.

This year I have had two clear and unmistakable signs from a higher power.

Marium Mohuiddin
First, a joyful one: My young progressive Muslim friend Marium Mohuiddin organized a Ramadan celebration at Barnsdall Park yesterday and brought together a delightful assortment of interfaith leaders and activists, many of them Jewish. She is involved in a group called "Newground: a Muslim-Jewish partnership for change." This group brings together young Muslims and Jews and helps them to hear each other's stories and build friendships. Each year they organize a Muslim-Jewish Community Iftar, which will be held this year a the Wilshire Boulevard Temple (see flyer).

At Barnsdall park, where there is an Inca-style building by Frank Lloyd Wright and a fabulous view of the city,  you could browse and schmooze at tables with groups like the Turkish Sufi Pacifica Institute and the Parliament of the World's Religions (led by my friend Ruth Sharone), offering  information and food. 

I had a blast hanging out with my interfaith friends at a park that gives you a God's eye view of the city. It felt as if I were in the kind of world that God truly intends--a world in which we are all one big happy family

However, I am reminded of wise Chinese proverb: "The whole world is like your family. Therefore, expect problems." That is another down-to-earth reason I'm fasting. Even though God intends us to be a big happy family, we are unfortunately a very dysfunctional one, especially in the Middle East, where injustice and violence prevail.

As I write this, I am painfully aware that 1,500 incarcerated Palestinian political prisoners are on a hunger strike in Israel/Palestine. Their nonviolent protest is supported by Sabeel.(Arabic 'the way' and also 'a channel' or 'spring') 

Sabeel runs a Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center  in Jerusalem.  founded by Palestinian Anglican priest, Rev. Naim Ateek, the former Canon of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem.
According to its official website, Sabeel "strives to develop a spirituality based on love, justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities." In particular, the group aims to "promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence and witness of Palestinian Christians as well as their contemporary concerns."
As a Christian and a Quaker, I totally support Sabeel and was moved by this letter I received from Friends of Sabeel in North America (FOSNA) yesterday. This is another reason I feel God is calling me to fast--to be in solidarity with these oppressed prisoners of a war that has been going on far too long and needs to end with justice and dignity for all.

[Today] marks the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. It is a time for prayer, reflection, fasting—a time to be with family and loved ones.
But today, over 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have entered their 40th consecutive day of fasting. The prisoners have been on a hunger strike, demanding their basic rights in the prison in pursuit of dignity, justice, and freedom.  This Ramadan, these prisoners are separated from their families—some of them indefinitely under administrative detention.
Now in their sixth week of the hunger strike, the situation is dire. While Palestinian prisoners participating in what has been dubbed the Dignity Strike were initially drinking salt water to survive, many have stopped drinking water altogether. With rapidly deteriorating health and utter silence from the global community and international governments, it is imperative that we the people act, to force our governments to take a stand and protect the lives of the hunger strikers.
In order to accomplish this, the BDS National Committee (BNC) has put out an urgent call for people of conscience around the world to amp up BDS efforts. In particular, they are calling for international bodies to engage in a comprehensive military embargo against Israel, similar to that imposed against apartheid South Africa in the past.
We cannot preach solidarity with Palestine and fail to act. This Ramadan, Christians must act in the spirit of interfaith support and international solidarity. You can take action in the following ways:
  1. Make your church HP-free: Already,  churches across the United States have taken our pledge to go HP-free. HP profits from Israel’s prison system, which the hunger strikers are resisting. Take a stand to support the Dignity Strike and get your church to sign on.
  2. Start a municipal campaign: Pressure your local government officials to take a stand in support of the Dignity Strike.
  3. Spread the word: Post on social media using the hashtags #DignityStrike and #BDS4DignityStrike. Take a photo with a sign showing your support. Participate in the #SaltWaterChallenge and upload your video to Facebook. These are all great ways to challenge the media blackout on an individual level.
This Ramadan, let’s act from a place of love in concrete support the hunger strikers. Every hour that the strike continues, Palestinian prisoners are risking their lives in pursuit of freedom and dignity. It is our moral imperative to support them in their efforts.
In solidarity and struggle,
FOSNA Staff  

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