By Jerry Campbell
Religion News Service
CLAREMONT, Calif. (RNS) Last Sunday (May 12), Timothy Murphy began a fast of solidarity with the Guantanamo inmates who are on a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention. As one of our Ph.D. students and an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Timothy felt spiritually called to the hunger strike. He is drinking water and nothing else.
Timothy intends to continue as long as he is able, or until the Obama administration begins taking action to address the prisoners’ legitimate grievances, including deliberate steps to find homes for the 86 prisoners who have been cleared for release. Timothy says he would be happy to stop the fast tomorrow if the administration indicated that it was taking steps to do this.
I, like Timothy, believe this is a basic human rights issue for the prisoners. I also believe that it is critical for the health of our nation’s collective soul and integrity to get it resolved. Timothy’s deep commitment inspired me, so I decided to join him, but in a more limited fast: I am fasting three days this week, and every Thursday hereafter, until steps are taken to resolve the Guantanamo issues.
“Many Americans,” Timothy recently told me, “tend to think of the Guantanamo prisoners as ‘the worst of the worst.’ It’s easy to not pay attention to their plight, regardless of whether they die of hunger, have tubes shoved down their esophagus for force feeding, or languish in Guantanamo permanently — even the prisoners who have already been determined not to have been enemy combatants.”
His hope, which is now mine as well, is that enough Americans will join us to make people think twice about their assumptions and to pressure Congress and the White House to address the detainee situation conclusively.
Each day of his fast, Timothy calls his senators and representatives on Capitol Hill, and the White House to express concern over the Guantanamo situation, to tell them of his fast, and ask if any steps have been taken. He is encouraging everyone he knows to contact them as well.
Timothy has also emailed Carlos Warner, an attorney who represents some of the detainees, saying, “I don’t know for how long I will do this,” he told Warner, “but if nothing else, I want the men in Guantanamo to know that myself and others care about their situation enough to act in support of them so that the Obama administration responds to their grievances.”
Timothy has already lost more than 7 percent of his body weight and feels dizzy when he stands. He has consulted a doctor, because he doesn’t intend to fast to the death, unlike the 100 prisoners on hunger strike at Guantanamo. Those men are so depressed about their situation that many of them would be relieved to end it all.
What happened to the ideals of due process and innocent until proven guilty? What about no unjust imprisonment, and no cruel and unusual punishment? How can America claim to be a beacon of justice and democracy for the world, when after more than 11 years, we continue to let this situation fester?
Timothy tells me that by the time he’s burned up his remaining fat, he has read that his body will start eating away his muscles, a feeling he is not looking forward to. But he’s taking it one day at a time, praying for a resolution.
I urge you to join Timothy and me, in whatever capacity you are able, to pray, fast, and contact your representatives. We need to close Guantanamo.
(Jerry Campbell is the president of Claremont Lincoln University and Claremont School of Theology.)
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Located between Guantanamo's Camp Five and Camp Six.
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A skinny Guantanamo detainee receives physical therapy on Tuesday, April 16, 2013.
Empty cell block
A cell block at Guantanamo's Camp VI that had been occupied until a raid on April 13, 2013. One detainee had written "stop tortur us. stop desclate our relgion" on the wall of his cell. The officer in charge of the facility said that detainees had hoarded all types of materials in the communal area.
Guantanamo Camp VI video feeds
A Guantanamo guard looks over a video screen at Camp VI at Guantanamo in April. Detainees had blocked 147 of the prison's 160 cameras, according to a military official.
Water bottles filled with gravel were amongst the weapons officials said they confiscated from detainees after the raid in April.
Other weapons included broom sticks and shanks.
A guard checks on detainees in a sparsely populated block of Guantanamo's Camp Six in April.
Guantanamo Medical Facility
Military officials show journalists the room where some detainees were being force fed during the ongoing hunger strike at the facility.
Force Feeding chair
A restraining chair used to feed detainees at Guantanamo.
Cans of Ensure at Guantanamo
A guard displays cans of Ensure used to force feed detainees at Guantanamo.
A handprint is shown on a Camp VI cell block that was occupied by a detainee until a raid in mid-April.
A shoe from a detainee left on the now-empty cell block.
Cameras are everywhere in Guantanamo's Camp VI, even inside the shower.
The second level of an empty cell block in Camp VI as seen from below.
Camp VI Sign
A sign outside Guantanamo's Camp VI.
Guantanamo Flag At Half Staff
A flag flying over Guantanamo's Camp Six flys at half staff in honor of victims of Boston Marathon massacre.
Camp Five Guards
Guards at Camp Five stand watch during morning prayers.
Camp Five Cell Block
An empty cell block in Guantanamo's Camp Five.
Face shields intended to prevent guards from being hit in the face by "cocktails" of urine, feces and semen.
A guard hands water to a detainee on the Bravo block of Guantanamo's Camp Five.
Dead Banana Rat
A dead banana rat on the road to Guantanamo's prison facilities.
Sunrise By Guantanamo's Camp Five
Obama, Hagel On Joint Detention Group Board
President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel pictured at the headquarters of Joint Task Force Guantanamo's Joint Detention Group headquarters.