Rudy Lopez and dozens of others in the Fast for Families movement will break their fast today in the tent which has been their home with the Capitol as a backdrop after up to 22 days of fasting in a spiritual effort to fix America's immigration system.
"But this is not the end," said Jim Wallis, who has also fasted. "This is the beginning."
Actually, the beginning of the Fast for Families campaign began November 12 with Eliseo Medina and a handful of activists fasting for 22 days. When they broke their fast, Rudy started his to keep it going. So have dozens of others. And now it's our turn...
Last night, Rudy, Eliseo and others attended a screening of the powerful Diego Luna biopic Cesar Chavez with a group leaders on education, immigration reform and civic engagement. The fasters had to head back to their tents before the end of the film however to meet with actress America Ferrera who was one of the many stars in the movie (visitors have included celebrities, the President and First Lady, thousands of activist and organizers). When the film ended, many of the viewers went to the tents for a spiritual gathering in support of the fasters. The tent was overflowing with palpable energy coming off of a crowd ranging from DC influencers to community organizers to random visitors who connected, sang and prayed for the fasters and the movement.
And now, on the feast day of the Virgen de Guadalupe when these fasters start eating again, it's up to us, who care about the issue, to keep the movement going until Capitol Hill passes comprehensive immigration reform. Fast for one day or even one hour but we have to keep the spiritual momentum going. I will start my fast tomorrow and then find someone to keep it going, until change happens. Which is why Jim Wallis is also correct, the beginning starts now.
"It's a call to action," said Eliseo with his head poking out of a brown hooded sweatshirt with Act Fast across the front. Eliseo, a legendary organizer from the Cesar Chavez era, wants to "commission America to fast and pray for Congress to answer the call" for comprehensive immigration reform. "This is not about politics, the fast is about faith. Faith in the American people who we believe care about families being torn apart. Faith that Congress will reflect during the holidays and do the best thing for America."
Ah faith. Faith and fasting goes back to ancient history. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam emphasize fasting during certain periods. Buddhists fast. I have heard that when one fasts, your spiritual appetite is fed instead of the physical hunger. Dating back almost as far back as spiritual reasons are political or social protests for fasting. Gandhi and Cesar Chavez famously fasted for the rights of the disenfranchised. That spiritual and activist tradition lives on today through movements like the Fast for Families (www.Fast4Families.com) and humble servant leaders like Eliseo, Rudy, Jim and others.
Their call to action not just to Congress but to us should be acted on -- especially during the holiday season when many of us are celebrating the birth of Christ, whose family fled persecution to Egypt as, well, modern-day immigrants do.
"When you welcome the stranger of the alien," Jesus said in scripture, "it is as if you are welcoming me."
It's an interesting question really: how would our unforgiving immigration policy treat the Holy Family?
With that in mind, what can we do? I mean, so many have been working so hard for so long to change immigration policy. Well, the fasters were very clear on their call to action:
• Call your Member of Congress to support immigration reform or H.R. 15
• Get as many people as possible to fast in solidarity with the Fast for Families fasters to bring attention to this important issue
• Highlight the moral crisis caused by the broken immigration system
• Raise public awareness of the suffering and sacrifice immigrants face in our country
I want to add an action item as well. This Holiday Season fast for one day on December 24th in spiritual support of immigration reform. Reflect during Noche Buena on the millions of our brothers and sisters in the shadows or the thousands of families who won't be together on this special evening or those who died on their journey to America, the greatest country in the world that we all share. At midnight, celebrate your contribution to the effort by eating and writing about your experience.
As the website for Fast for Families asks: What is our faith, our words and our history worth if not translated into action, sacrifice and redemption?
Let's answer that question this Holiday Season.