Rabbi Calls for Americans of All Faiths to Fast for Peace

Nov 04, 2002 03:00 AM EST

A prominent progressive rabbi has issued a call for Jews and Christians to join Muslims in fasting as a way to deepen prayer and unite around a common issue—peace in Iraq.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, an activist-theologian who is a known opponent to a possible war in Iraq, issued the statement on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the observance of which includes daily fasting, calling on Americans of all faiths to "turn away from filling our bellies to opening our hearts."

The letter, which was released Monday (Oct. 28) by the Shalom Center, an organization that is active in causes such as anti-globalization, humanitarianism and environmentalism, was signed by 50 religious leaders from Jewish, Christian and Muslim organizations and religious communities.

The letter was distributed through the Shalom Center's e-mail list as well as e-mail lists from the Sojourners community and the National Council of Churches, among other groups.

"We invite all Americans to join in turning toward our holiest wisdom," the letter said. "We call upon us all to make this fasting a time to share our bread with the hungry, to study more deeply the consequences of war overseas and at home, to actively seek the fullness of peace, to gather with others of different religious communities and to open our hearts to our God of compassion, community and peace."

In Islam, the holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin on Nov. 6, is considered to be a time of spiritual renewal and reflection, when denying one's body by fasting from sunrise to sunset each day can lead to spiritual growth and deeper prayer.

In Judaism, the letter said, a "communal fast" is called especially in a time of impending calamity, to implore God's compassion and turn human concerns toward the spirit. Waskow urges Jews to fast on Nov. 4, the day before the new moon of the month of Kislev, as well as on a traditional fast day on Dec. 15, or the 10th of Tevet on the Jewish calendar.

Christians are urged to fast during Advent, "making room in busy lives and overly full selves for the incarnation of God's love."

In addition to the traditional fast of abstaining from food or drink, Waskow urged communities to take other actions, such as "fasting" from using gasoline for one day each week in order to protest American reliance on foreign oil, writing letters to politicians and staging "teach-ins" on the situation in Iraq, and visiting a house of worship from a faith tradition other than their own.

By Albert H. Lee