by Amy Nee-Walker, NYC Catholic Worker

“Out of my distress I call on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
The Lord is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.” 
Psalm 118:5-7

hunger_strikeThe words of the Psalmist in Sunday’s reading are echoed in the poetry of detainee Adnan Latif who, though cleared for release, died in the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba last September.  He was held without charge for 11 years.  Adnan wrote,

Where is the world to save us from torture?
Where is the world to save us from the fire and sadnesss?
Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?

But we are content, on the side of justice and right,
worshiping the Almighty.

And our motto on this island is, salaam.

Sunday marked the 60th day of the hunger strike that has spread through Guantanamo where 166 men continue to languish despite President Obama’s promise in 2008 to close it. The government now acknowledges 39 men on hunger strike, while lawyers insist that the number is closer to 130.

Attorney Army Captain Jason Wright calls the strike, “a manifestation of sheer desperation and hopelessness.” According to Shaker Aamer, a detainee cleared for release but who remains confined, “prisoners are being mistreated in gratuitous ways.” This includes a Syrian who, paralyzed due to maltreatment while in detention, is being denied the use of his wheelchair, as well as withholding of appropriate sleeping mats and potable water.

As people of faith, our motto too is salaam, peace.  As Christians we are called to be representatives of God’s compassion and mercy, to love both neighbor and enemy.  As Americans we are free and responsible to challenge our representatives when they are engaged in actions that are immoral and unjust.  Guantanamo is both.  Through this hunger strike the men there are calling out to us.

Let us honor their faith and live into ours by responding in any way we can.  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Join members of Witness Against Torture in a “rolling fast.” See www.witnesstorture.org.
  2. Write a letter to prisoners at Guantanamo.  See, http://ccrjustice.org/WriteGitmoPrisoners.
  3. Make phone calls: a) Call the White House and insist that President Obama fulfill his promise to close Guantanamo: 202-456-1111, 202-456-1414. b) Call the U.S. Southern Command to decry the conditions at Guantanamo: 305.437.1213. c) Call the Department of Defense: 703-571-3343
  4. Join in a national day of action on April 11th.  See www.witnesstorture.org for more information.

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