We meet the 1st and 3rd Thursdays at St. Gertrude's Ministry Center
(6214 N. Glenwood), beginning at 8:00 p.m. Folks are welcome to join us at anytime.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fast for Justice

As we enter the 10th year of Guantanamo's existence, the likelihood of its closing becomes more and more remote despite the Obama Administration's promise to close the prison two year ago. The Executive Branch is poised to formalize the practice of indefinite detention for 48 of the 173 men remaining at Guantanamo and the Legislature has barred the transfer of prisoners to the U.S. for criminal trials. Habeas Corpus – the notion that one cannot be arbitrarily arrested and held without formal charge or trial – is, too many, the philosophical bedrock for modern democracy and the United States' blatant disregard for it threatens the very liberty and freedom it seeks to uphold in the “War on Terror.”

So why does Witness Against Torture return to Washington, D.C. to fast and vigil for two weeks? Where is the hope? Are not our actions pointless, full of folly? Our detractors will definitely say so. Over and over the politicos and the generals tell us the political climate is not right for the closing of Guantanamo. Yet we still show up. We witness. We fast. We protest. We vigil and leaflet and lobby. We will resist and keep showing up – getting in the way – until that prison, and all other prisons like it, are closed. We show up because it gives us hope that another way is possible. That we can, indeed, live in a world without torture. We show up because it gives a small semblance of hope to the men in Guantanamo that they have not been forgotten; that justice has not yet been totally shirked, even in spite of all the grisly appearances of Decision Points and juridical opinions.

I hope, that in this small act of solidarity and sacrifice, that my fast may be a prayer and witness to the end of torture and the restoration of human rights, dignity and common good. The groaning hunger pains and a tired body is a small price to pay when communities of faith and conscience come together to resist the evils of imperial torture. May our fast give hope to our own meager hopelessness and bear witness to the covenant that calls us to love our enemies and "to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness" (Is 42:7).

Guantanamo Poem

I was reading, and remembering, the men of Guantanamo and their amazing poetry and was prompted to write this.

The Fear and the Poets

As poets we are dangerous people,
living in a land that views all truth as metaphor
and all our griefs as codes
for destruction from the inside,

so that when you say
"i miss my mother"
we assume the bombs will go off
any second.

and when you say
"the tyrants are corrupted with power"
we point our finger back at you
and your strange metaphorical tongue.

and when you say
"they have beaten, are beating, will beat me"
we look around, and scratch our heads,
and wonder at your strange choice of words.
we can't allow that it's true.
we aren't those kinds of people.

but we are.
and we are afraid of more than just metaphors.
we're afraid that our unshakeable faith
in life and in liberty
will come tumbling down
with the poetic quakes
sent from Guantanamo
from Bagram
from Chicago
from the font of our own imagination.

yesterday, a man laughed
in a courtroom
when confronted
by all that he had done.
his unshakeable faith in his own righteousness
is not metaphor.
nor was the question posed to him,
("why did you do this to me? you were supposed to be the law")
a metaphor. or a joke.
but he laughed, all the same.

in the end,
it is not words we should fear.
it is our unshakeable faith
in things that, in the end,
are just terrible metaphors
written by people afraid of poetry.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

hard of heart

A Northwoods Reflection on the Fast to End Torture

This morning, as I put another log on the fire, I gleefully grabbed a huge piece of wood from our wood-box. I was gleeful because the wood was dry, and hard, and would last longer than other options. As I picked up the piece of wood, I realized the heart of the piece of wood was completely attached.

Suddenly, childhood memories rushed in and I was ten and standing with my dad in the middle of our 40 acre forest cutting wood. My dad would cut down a dead tree, while I adventured and explored, safely distant. After it fell, he would cut it into segments with a chainsaw, and then split it with an ax. By this time, I was close by to help stack pieces or set them up for him to split. He had a special fight with the heartwood of the tree, and I can clearly remember him explaining it to me. "You see it, Punk? The circle in the middle, the different color? That's the heart of the tree! It's the hardest wood, stronger than the rest.. You see how it won't break up?"

As I put the log on the fire this morning, and as I hauled wood this morning, I paid special attention to the heartwood in each split piece of wood. The different colors, the strength that somehow allows the heart to remain together despite the splitter...

And I wondered if I were to be split, if my heart would be as strong? Is my heart the center to my being, that cannot be split despite axes that may come at me? Is it the core of my being, moving me to stand for more and be more?

I pray often for my stony heart to be made flesh. For God to continue to move me more in compassion and love. But rarely do I pray for a strong heart. A courageous heart. A heart that will not split or crumble. And to follow Christ and love as He calls, I think this may be a necessary prayer.

When I pray with the stories of the men in Guantanamo, and when I listen to their stories and watch news clips, I am amazed at their strong hearts. Their wounded hearts, wounded bodies, wounded souls that do not yield to the worst injustices. The strength of my heart is tested during this small period of isolation from community and fast (I'm eating one meal per day and liquids). Their hearts, though pierced, persevere through times of much greater trial.

As our bodies may weaken, I pray that the God of love, mercy and creation will bless our hearts with a strength that cannot be broken. A strength that unites, a strength that creates, a strength that upholds us in a crumbling world and calls us to be more.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fasting Prayer 2011

Hey Friends,

I was inspired again this year to write a prayer to describe my intentions and desires in the WAT fast. I thought it might be helpful to others, know you are in my prayers,

God my Mother,
I come before you, my poor and hungry self.

I am so small in your great work,
but desire to do so much for your people.

As I fast,

let this hunger focus your desires in me.

Let rest my ego and free it to your reign.

Jesus, brother, be with me. Through this hunger

make room for God’s reign in my heart.

May I be able to hear the stories of the imprisoned,

the tortured, and the homeless with your ears and your heart.

Let me pray with you Jesus and all those who fast,

crying out to our God of Justice,

to end the torture and imprisonment

of the men at Guantanamo and Bagram.

We pray that all of our eyes may be opened

to see these men as our brothers.

It is you God, who gave us these desires,

please sustain and give courage

to all who fast with you.

May our actions stir many hearts.

Mold us in freedom so that we may

continue becoming the co-workers in your reign

you invite each of us to be.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Faith-based community begins 12-day Fast for Justice

Luke Hansen reflects on the beginning of Guantanamo's tenth year and Witness Against Torture's Fast for Justice on the "Messy Jesus Business" Blog. Check it out: