From the Archive
A Brief History of the Friday Fast for Justice
This kind [of unclean spirit] can be driven out only by prayer and fasting.
— Mark 9:29
Witness Against Torture’s Friday Fast for Justice started in 2005. In the months prior to their trip to Guantánamo Bay to protest the detention facility there, a group of 25 people began fasting on Fridays in solidarity with the prisoners engaged in hunger strikes, protesting their innocence and the conditions of their detention. Upon their arrival the group was denied entry, and they vigiled and fasted for three days outside the gates. Every January since 2009, WAT has gathered in Washington, DC to vigil, act, and participate in a multi-day liquids-only fast, in protest of Guantánamo and in recognition of the detainees’ hunger strikes there.
In March 2013, the world became aware of a massive hunger strike underway at Guantánamo; the strike was to last for months, with all but a few elderly prisoners refusing food and medicine from prison authorities. Lawyers for the detainees reported that hunger strikers were losing consciousness and experiencing severe drops in body weight. Some were hospitalized, and dozens—up to 46 on any given day, according to the government count—were brutally force fed in defiance of the United Nations, the World Medical Association, and the International Red Cross. In response, on March 24 members of WAT and other human rights organizations embarked on a seven-day fast and series of actions in solidarity, to amplify the protest of the 166 men imprisoned at that time.
WAT held demonstrations in various locations—from New York City, to Chicago, to Perrysburg, Ohio. Over 100 people nationwide participated in the fast. Fasters also wrote letters to the detainees and made phone calls to the White House, U.S. Southern Command and the Department of Defense asking that the prison close.
At the end of that seven day fast, the number of men hunger striking at the prison had continued to increase. Rather than simply end the fast, WAT decided to initiate a rolling fast. At least one person per day fasted from midnight to midnight, made phone calls to people in power, and sent one letter to a prisoner at Guantánamo. The rolling fast initially lasted 30 days, and was eventually extended for ten months. Over 250 people around the world participated in WAT’s rolling fast, with a total of 31,272 hours fasted.
In January 2014, 155 men remained at Guantánamo. WAT felt compelled to continue some form of fasting in solidarity with those who continued to hunger for justice at the prison, and so we re-initiated the Friday Fast for Justice. There are over 50 people who currently participate.
We are committed to continuing the Friday Fast for Justice, and are asking people to consider joining. As we enter the Christian season of Lent, we invite you to fast for one or more Fridays during Lent and beyond, until the prison at Guantánamo is closed.
Individuals who sign up are asked to fast—in any form they like—on Friday, to make phone calls, contribute a photo to the anti-Guantánamo social media campaign, and to write a letter to a prisoner at Guantánamo. Those who sign up to fast will get more specific instructions via email. You can sign up here for the fast.