The fast is to inspire prayer and action for the people of Haiti and also prayer for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan. The idea for the fast came to me the day the earthquake struck Haiti, an event that triggered such grief and such a desire to help in some way. But the idea about fasting and praying to express our grief over the war in Iraq and Afghanistan came from other sources: Gandhi and his lengthy fasts to stop the fighting between Hindus and Muslims in India during the Indian independence movement, and the staged fasting of religious anti-war protesters (William Sloan Coffin, Abraham Heschel, Robert McAfee Brown, Daniel Berrigan) during the Vietnam War.
These people turned to a highly traditional religious practice of all the major world religions: Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. All of these religions have used fasting to concentrate thought and desire away from the way the world works to the way God would have it work. They also use fasting to express remorse, repentance, and grief. And in the case of some, such as Gandhi and the anti-war protesters, they use fasting to focus a group on prayer and social change.
In this case, Yale Divinity School’s Fast for Haiti, Fast for Peace will also result in immediate practical aid: money saved on food during the week will be donated to Partners in Health in Haiti at a time when donations to Haitian relief are slowing down. Students, faculty and staff of Yale Divinity School can donate money in the Common Room during the week or donate up to one-fourth of their remaining dining service money online.
My hope is that we’ll generate a significant donation of cash to Haiti. But my greater hope is that more hearts and minds will be attuned to the fact that we are at war, and that war is something to be grieved, however one feels about this particular war or any war. I pray fervently for the end of this war and for the healing of the physical, emotional and spiritual wounds that war causes to civilians, to soldiers, and to their families. I cannot personally condone any war or the practice of turning other people intentionally into killers for my sake. Nor can I simply turn away and pretend that I am not involved. I deeply respect those who sacrifice themselves for a greater good. It’s just that I believe and trust in a different greater Good, the one who says, “Love your enemies” and “Put your sword back.”
Though there are many different opinions on the morality of war, I think most would agree that war losses are something to mourn. And so from March 24 to March 31, at least, I hope that people will acknowledge the loss and pray for God’s help in getting us out of this war. And at a time when donations to Haiti are flagging, when the world is tempted to move on to the next interesting news blip on its iPhone or its Facebook News Feed, we at Yale Divinity School hope to raise some money for Haiti, too.
Please join us in prayer, in fasting, in hope.
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who is unbiased and takes no bribe, who justly treats the orphan and widow, and who loves resident foreigners, giving them food and clothing. Deuteronomy 10:17-18.
He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Isaiah 2:4
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28.
Put your sword back into its place! For all who take hold of the sword will die by the sword. Matthew 26:52.