Fasting in solidarity with Sunrise hunger strikers

Today I spoke at a rally on the front steps of Northampton’s City Hall. Pulled together in less than 48 hours, this public witness drew almost 30 people eager to express support for five young climate activists in the Sunrise Movement who, as part of their campaign “Nothing to Lose,” began a hunger strike today in front of the White House. The five Sunrisers intend not to eat until Democrats pass climate policy that matches the urgency and scale of the climate emergency. People who support their demands for bold climate legislation were invited to carry out a 24-hour fast.

This is a crucial week in the fight to include strong climate policy initiatives in the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act, including the Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) and the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP). Fifty Republicans and the corporate Democrats most captive to the fossil fuel industry – Senators Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) – are pushing to gut the most significant climate legislation this country has ever tried to pass. Not incidentally, coal mining, oil and gas, and gas pipeline companies gave more to Manchin during the current election cycle than to any other member of Congress. Unless the U.S. passes meaningful climate legislation shortly, its leadership and credibility at the upcoming U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, COP26, will be substantially weakened.

I invite readers to phone the White House (888/724-8946) and urge President Biden to stop fossil fuel projects, including Line 3. I also invite my clergy colleagues to preach about the climate crisis. This new 20-minute podcast, “The Urgent Need to Preach on Climate,” delivered by my friend and colleague Jim Antal and released by Yale Divinity School, should encourage you.

Below are my remarks from today’s rally.

Speaking at the rally. Photo credit: René Theberge

My name is Margaret Bullitt-Jonas. I’m an Episcopal priest who works for the two Episcopal dioceses in Massachusetts and for the United Church of Christ in Southern New England to help build a faith-filled, justice-seeking movement to stop climate change and create a better future.

I am fasting today, as some of you are, too. Fasting or not, all of us are standing with the five resolute young people in the Sunrise Movement who today launched a hunger strike in front of the White House to demand climate action from our government commensurate with the crisis we are in.

So, let’s think about fasting. Fasting is a spiritual practice in just about every religion. Moses fasted. Elijah fasted. Mohammed fasted. The Buddha fasted. Jesus fasted.

The ancient practice of fasting has spiritual and moral power and has played a part in many non-violent struggles for social change.

Why do we fast today?

We fast to break through the habits and routines of daily life and to say that something matters more than business as usual. Business as usual must stop.

We fast to break through the paralysis of disengagement and despair.

We fast to purify ourselves, to open our hearts and steady our minds, so that we can ground ourselves in the love that wants to be the center of our lives.

We fast to express repentance and remorse for whatever ways we have participated in, colluded with, and benefited from a system that is killing life.

And we fast to protest – to express in and through our bodies our deep grief and our moral outrage that corporate and political powers are driving this country – and this planet – to the brink of climate catastrophe.

We fast to proclaim that another world is possible. We can move beyond fossil fuels. We can create a society that lives more gently and more justly on God’s good Earth.

After the rally. Photo credit: René Theberge

To our friends in the Sunrise Movement, we say: we stand with you. We stand with climate activists everywhere who hunger for justice.

We stand with everyone who is hungry, especially those whose stomachs are empty because of poverty, injustice, or a changing climate, where drought or heat have withered your crops or where extreme storms and rising seas have destroyed your homes.

We join our hunger to yours. And we join our hunger to the hunger of every living being, human and more-than-human, that hungers for life and a healthy, habitable planet.

Our hunger pangs invite us to hunger for what really matters.

Today we re-commit ourselves to the struggle to fight for a society that invests in our families, our communities, and our future.

Let’s get it done! Let’s Build Back Better. Thank you.

3 Responses to “Fasting in solidarity with Sunrise hunger strikers”

  1. Nicholas Warren

    terrific and important words, Margaret. Thank you!

  2. Margie Abbott

    Such a superb action and the meaning is infectious thank you

    • mbj

      Thank you, Margie and Nick, for your responses. It is tragic that young people have to carry out a hunger strike in order to push for a livable future, but their courage and moral clarity inspire me. Their willingness to sacrifice inspires me.

Comments are closed.