This morning I joined partner organizations in announcing the next phase of the Fast for Families, the prophetic spiritual movement for immigration reform and citizenship held for thirty days in a tent posted outside the National Capital last November and December.
Faith leaders from many traditions were actively engaged in the courageous and self-sacrificial fast where we saw leaders survive on only water for as many as 22 days. Church World Service has been a lead partner in this effort. Today, I was honored to emcee and commission this next phase of the Fast for Families at a national press conference in Washington, D.C., as fasters and advocates take the prophetic witness of Fast for Families on the road across America.
In the next two months we plan to have events in more than 100 key House districts as we continue the call to pray, fast and act. During the season of Lent, fasters and advocates will embark on two buses with Northern and Southern routes from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. to lift up the moral crisis we face with so many families separated.
As Church World Service, we are proud to be calling on our network of denominations and refugee resettlement agencies to join the Fast for Families with others in the faith, labor and immigrant rights movement. I am inspired by the bold witness of the leaders and lay members of our CWS member communions who have already been fasting and mobilizing for this extraordinary effort.
As I listened to the testimonies of the fasters last December, I was deeply moved as they aligned their personal hunger and bodily suffering with the pain endured by immigrant communities in every corner of this nation. I was inspired by stories like that of Cristian Avila, a DREAMer and recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, who fasted 22 days, “The reason I decided to fast was for my parents. I believe the sacrifice I’m taking is really small compared the sacrifice they made for me. If I didn’t take this fast, I wouldn’t be able to look in my father or mother’s eyes or my community members’, and tell them I did everything I could.”
The witness of fasters like Cristian brought a distinct moral call to our nation and our Congress that as a country we can no longer ignore the hundreds of deaths along our southern border each year. We can’t ignore the pain and suffering brought on by 1,100 deportations every single day. We can’t ignore the hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters trapped in inhumane detention centers. And we can’t ignore the pain of thousands of children – this nation's future – growing up thousands of miles from their parents.
These realities of our nation's broken immigration system, and the courage of these fasters, have moved me to make my own personal commitment to fast. I am prayerfully and humbly preparing to fast for every Wednesday during this Lenten season, as I reflect on the suffering faced by our immigrant brothers and sisters. I pray that this fasting experience will open my spirit even more to the gravity and urgency of this movement for immigrant justice.
I invite everyone in the CWS family to find their own way to pray, fast and act this Lent for immigration reform. Each of us is called to respond to this issue in different ways. If you cannot fast, there are so many resources available to us to act - from educating our communities and congregations, to writing letters to the editor of our local newspapers, to bringing a group of community leaders to meet with your Representative in their local office. Please reach out to CWS staff at the contact information listed below to support your efforts as we together pray, fast and act.
When so many said immigration reform was dead, the faith, sacrifice and courage of the fasters was the light on the hill that brought public attention to the moral crisis of our broken and unjust immigration system. Now that light is guiding the path to a newfound momentum and urgency across the political spectrum for immigration reform as we launch Fast for Families Across America.
Rev. John L. McCullough is President and CEO of CWS.
For additional information, contact Rev. Noel Andersen, Grassroots Coordinator for Immigrants' Rights; Sidney Traynham, Media Associate for Immigration Reform; Jen Smyers, Associate Director for Immigration & Refugee Policy