Fasting for peace

The British peo­ple nev­er cease to amaze us with their crazy habits. For exam­ple, we recent­ly dis­cov­ered that the day before Ash Wednes­day is called ‘Pan­cake Day’ here. They orga­nize actu­al pan­cake races, where­by par­tic­i­pants toss a pan­cake up and down in a fry­ing pan while run­ning. We are always in for pan­cakes, so tomor­row they will def­i­nite­ly be on the menu. And after that, Lent starts again, fast­ing time for Chris­tians.

When I am look­ing for inspi­ra­tion on fast­ing I always con­sult the writ­ings of Mahat­ma Gand­hi. He was well known for using fast­ing as a means to bring peace between dif­fer­ent groups. There is even a Wikipedia list of these inci­dents. One of these sto­ries is told in the movieabout his life. After the non­vi­o­lent and suc­cess­ful strug­gle against the British, there was still no peace in India. There was enor­mous ten­sion between Hin­dus and Mus­lims, because both groups were afraid that the oth­er would sup­press them if they got the chance. Major riots broke out in Del­hi. Gand­hi could not con­trol the peo­ple and knew that as their leader he would have to pose him­self in between. He announced that he would not eat until the two groups would promise to stop the vio­lence. Gand­hi was loved by all Indi­ans, whether they were Hin­du or Mus­lim, and the fact that he could die if they did not behave, made an end to the riots with­in three weeks.

Gandhi

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, even Gand­hi was unable to bridge the gap between Mus­lims and Hin­dus. He was very sad to even­tu­al­ly see the Mus­lim Pak­istan sep­a­rat­ed from India. This was fol­lowed by mas­sive migra­tion which led to much vio­lence and many deaths on both sides. Until today, there is a lot of reli­gious vio­lence in India.

The exam­ple of Gand­hi still shows what work­ing for peace looks like. He broke down the walls of enmi­ty, not by hit­ting them with a wreck­ing ball, but by mak­ing him­self utmost vul­ner­a­ble. This melt­ed away the walls that peo­ple had erect­ed in their hearts. In his auto­bi­og­ra­phy, we find a few tips on fast­ing. For exam­ple, it is impor­tant that your mind coop­er­ates with your body. If you retain a con­stant desire for the food that you deny your­self, fast­ing serves no pur­pose. It all starts with your thoughts and what you focus on.

Atonement, Justice and PeaceDur­ing Lent I want to think about the pow­er of love against hate. I’m still read­ing the book “Atone­ment, Jus­tice and Peace” by Dar­rin W. Sny­der Belousek. Fol­low­ing Belousek’s vision of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion I will share some sto­ries that relate to this verse from Paul’s let­ter to the Eph­esians:

For he is our peace: in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has bro­ken down the divid­ing wall, that is, the hos­til­i­ty between us.

Eph­esians 2, 14

And — we are not Gand­hi, so tomor­row we will first enjoy a pile of deli­cious British pan­cakes.