Post Fast Reflections Here

If you are participating in the Fast and you are posting your thoughts and reflections, please write them out in the comment section at the bottom of this page.  Once you post to the comment section here, it will be put up as a blog post on the main page of the blog as quickly as possible. Thanks and we look forward to your words.

Published on March 14, 2008 at 7:10 am  Comments (9)  

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  1. I will not be fasting – because of advanced age and dietary issues – but I will be lighting a candle the first thing every morning, starting Sunday (tomorrow).

  2. The mere thought of such epistemic injustice exemplified by the story of Efren is heartbreaking, brings tears to my eyes, makes me keep on going in hopes that someday the institutionalized oppression that shapes our lives will one day be reconciled.

    This coalition-filled effort makes me think of another hunger strike that took place last year in November: a slightly different occasion but a completely inter-connected thread of struggle for social justice…

    Columbia students hunger-striked with these thoughts and hope in mind…
    “With luck, Columbia will see the starvation of our bodies as a bellwether of our growing desperation on this campus. It’s a shame that Columbia was not more alarmed when we said our minds, hearts, and spirits
    were starving, too.”

    As another display of solidarity and strength takes place, I would just like to end by saying my heart goes out to all those in the fast during the coming week. We must keep on fighting, keep on struggling.

    Isang Bagsak

  3. Friends:
    Just a passage of scripture of which I’m mindful as we begin these days together. From Isaiah 58:

    Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
    Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

  4. The denial of food for one’s self is such a small thing when one contemplates the denial of justice for so many in our world. Fasting in solidarity with Efran and in the hope that hearts and laws will be changed. May every yoke be broken, may the oppressed be freed, may we discover what it means to be truly human during this time of death and rebirth.

  5. “But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you’re fighting for.” —Paulo Coelho

    Day one was a challenge for my first ever juice/water fast. It was different than other fasts I have participated in during my life. I understand the struggle though and I know it means that I am developing strength and enlightenment along the way.

    Our cause is noble and a reminder to us of the many things we take for granted, namely our liberties. This is a time to reflect and be grateful for all we have in our lives, and a time to think about the things others have been denied or unlawfully robbed of.

    We are united in solidarity across the globe. The strength of our spirit and voice is going to transcend every imaginable boundary and make our plea for justice heard loud and clear.

    Nothing can stop the voice of truth. Remember, truth crushed to the earth is truth still, and like a seed, will rise again.

    Stay strong and encouraged during the fast. We will succeed!

  6. Dear friends;
    Today we held a meeting at St Peter’s Church in Detroit to write letters to the commutation board and discuss our next moves.We are asking that everyone ask others to read the information and write, too.
    Earlier today, Bill Wylie Kellermann and I met with Inga, who was Efren’s teacher in school at the time he was sentenced to life in prison. It was so interesting to talk to someone who was witness to the events as they unfolded and hear her narrative of life in Berrien County and the peoples’ faith in the system. Everyone who knew Efren thought that he would be exonerated and would go home. So much to fill in here, but suffice to say that is not what happened and 19 years later he would still be in prison and this committee would form and meet and fast and write and pray and organize. How strange it all is.
    Among my many thoughts today are these: How lucky we are to have Bill on this campaign with us, who was able to bring the religious community on board. How amazing for someone like Inga to risk her social standing to get behind efforts to free Efren. Scott Eliot, Terry Kelley, so many forces coming together to bring justice all these years later.
    And Velia. Talking to her, I learn so much each time. She says this is the first time she felt that Efren would be coming home. Velia and Efren represent Berrien County. They represent those whose cries for justice were not heard by any judges, were lied on by media, witnesses, and ignored by ordinary citizens.
    Except for a few people who form the committee to free Efren, and hundreds of others similarly situated.
    This is a message of hope. A few people collaborated to lock up a child and now, 19 years later, we collaborate to free him.
    For time lost, there is no remedy.Better days ahead, Efren. We pary that your son will be home soon, Velia.
    We will be with you for the long haul.Sorry it took so long for us to find each other.So glad to be part of your team.

    In solidarity and hope,

  7. Dear Friends,
    The email below came from a senior staff member of Detroit NPR affiliate WDET-FM. It was sent to contacts from the Detroit Group of Amnesty International who are energetically supporting reform of the laws which send children to prison for life. Thursday 3-20 will be the second time this widely heard program, Detroit Today, will address the issues raised by Efren’s unjust imprisonment and the violation of international norms of law and humanity represented by the thousands of other juveniles sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Try to catch the program on 101.9-FM around 11:30.

    The vigil last night at St. Peter’s was full of hope, compassion, song, grumbling stomachs, prayer, reflection, laughter and – thanks to Efren’s call-in and a chance to talk with him – a great deal of inspiration. We hope some of you can make it to the “way of the cross” procession through our own crucified city and world this Friday. (Good Friday is the day Christians remember the kangaroo court and cruel legal lynching of Jesus). Meet by noon at St. Peter’s. Also, the Easter vigil service at 8:00 p.m. Saturday, will surely be a moving occasion. Easter is the day when Christian are reminded that even if they didn’t happen to be living in Palestine two thousand years ago they are still walking with Jesus – if they keep their eyes open and learn how to know him when he comes by.
    Mike and Carmen Kelly

    Tomorrow at 11:30 a.m., tune in to Detroit Today to hear a conversation with Efren Paredes. He’s currently waiting for a commutation from the State which could take up to a year. Efren’s wife generously arranged this phone interview for us. We’ll talk to Elena Herrada right after about what folks are doing locally to spread the word and help the cause.
    Zak Rosen

    DETROIT -Ten Detroiters are joining with some sixty people statewide, and more around the country, to fast on behalf of Efren Paredes Jr., the 300 prisoners who were sentenced to Life Without Parole in Michigan when they were children, and over 2,000 others nationwide. The fast coincides with the Christian festivals of Holy Week, but includes fasters of many faith traditions.

    Mr. Paredes is the 15-year-old Latino honor student wrongly convicted in 1989 of murder and robbery by a nearly all-White jury in Berrien County, Michigan. He was sentenced to three life sentences, two without the possibility of parole. The fast marks the beginning of his 19th year of incarceration.

    The fast supports the commutation request recently submitted to Governor Granholm on Paredes’ behalf and also House Bills 4402-4405, currently pending in the Michigan House of Representatives, which would abolish the imposition of life without parole sentences on juveniles in Michigan, and provide the possibility of parole to the 300 plus prisoners incarcerated for crimes they were convicted of committing when they were children.

    At least ten people, four of them Detroiters, will fast, on water or juices, for the full six days leading up to Easter. Others, among some 60 around the state, will fast for a day or two, keeping continuous vigil. Local groups are fasting in Lansing and Benton Harbor. Other six-day fasts are taking place simultaneously in Los Angeles, Illinois, New Mexico, Tennessee, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Switzerland, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

    Elena Herrada, one of the Detroit fasters said, “We, who struggle for the release of Efren Paredes, Jr., also remember that there are hundreds, thousands more, both wrongfully and rightfully convicted of crimes, whose humanity is lost in exile. We know you are there, you are not forgotten.”

    Although it violates international law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Art. 37, Michigan has over 300 prisoners sentenced as juveniles to mandatory life without parole. It is noted that as of February 2008 the USA stands alone in the world as the only remaining nation in the world that imposes life without parole sentences on children. The number is 2,000 juveniles nationwide.

    Efren Paredes, Jr. recently wrote to friends, “I have stood in the eye of the storm many times and not yielded. This will be no different. Berrien County sentenced me to die in prison, but God created an indomitable spirit in me. He created me to live a free life, not a captive for life.”

    The Detroit fast is to be based at St Peter’s Episcopal Church (Michigan and Trumbull). Events of the week include:

    Ø Monday, March 17 at 10 am – Press Conference and Vigil at State Offices

    Ø Wednesday, March 19 at 7 pm – (St Peter’s) Evening of reflection for fasters and supporters

    Ø Friday, March 21 at noon – (St Peter’s) Stations of the Cross procession through the streets of the city. One of the stations devoted to Efren Paredes, Jr. and other Juvenile Lifers

    Ø Saturday, March 22 at 8 pm – (St Peter’s) Easter Vigil Liturgy, followed by potluck and breaking of the fast.

    For more information contact: Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann, 313-841-7554

  8. On this day of hope and new life, we go forward in the belief that truth, justice, and freedom will prevail. The fast was a powerful way to connect in a very real way with Efren and others around the world. It also gave me the opportunity to talk with many people this week about Efren and the injustice of mandatory juvenile sentencing. A special grace was our Wednesday prayer service at St. Peter’s where we spoke with Efren and, led by Julie, united our voices in songs of freedom. Keep your eyes on the prize, Efren, . . . the arc of history may be long but it indeed bends toward justice. We will continue to write, advocate, and pray. Although our fast from food ended last night, I pray that we will never stop fasting from apathy, indifference, and despair. Including one of my favorite poems as a gift of strength and hope. Although written in a different place under different circumstances, the hope is the same.

    They have threatened us with Resurrection

    There is something here within us
    which doesn’t let us sleep, which doesn’t let us rest,
    which doesn’t stop the pounding deep inside.
    It is the silent, warm weeping of women without their husbands
    it is the sad gaze of children fixed there beyond memory . . .

    What keeps us from sleeping
    is that they have threatened us with resurrection!

    Because at each nightfall
    though exhausted from the endless inventory
    of killings for years,
    we continue to love life,
    and do not accept their death!
    In this marathon of hope
    there are always others to relieve us
    in bearing the courage necessary . . .

    Accompany us then on this vigil
    and you will know what it is to dream!
    You will know then how marvelous it is
    to live threatened with resurrection!
    To live while dying
    and to already know oneself resurrected.

    Julia Esquivel

  9. Easter Vigil Sermon,
    Breaking the Fast
    March 22, 2008. St Peter’s Episcopal.
    Bill Wylie-Kellermann

    Matthew 28:1-10
    28After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

    The presence of the guards or the soldiers at the tomb is unique to Matthew’s resurrection story. It is a minor detail in this text, but more is told in the verses both before and after.

    Just prior – The disciples may have forgotten the promise of the resurrection, but the authorities have not. The religious leaders and the politicians consult. There want to be sure this movement, like its leader, is done. They want the dead one to stay dead. A guard of soldiers is available; the tomb is made a prison, sealed and set with security forces. “End of story,” they say.

    In their bit role in the text, they serve as the eyes and ears of authority. They are privy to the reality of the resurrection. They glimpse it in fear and trembling.

    Then in the aftermath, the guards bring their report and are paid handsomely, not hush money to keep quiet, but “large money” to spread a lie, the official story, the media account. Bury him again with lies big and small.

    But the story lurches into motion again nevertheless, wending its way to hear and now. Violence and lies do not prevail.

    This week a number of us have been fasting on behalf of Efren Paredes Jr., an honor student wrongfully convicted by a nearly all white, Berrien County jury, and sentenced as a fifteen year old to three life sentences, two of them without parole. The fast marks the beginning of his nineteen year of imprisonment and also the submission of a commutation request to the Governor on his behalf. Through him the fast is also connected to some 300 other prisoners in Michigan sentenced as juveniles to mandatory life without parole, 71% of whom were children of color and of whom 41% came from Wayne Co. There is currently legislation pending in the statehouse which would change this practice and open to them the possibility of parole.

    Efren was convicted by a frame of lies, “false testimony,” as the gospels put it, “and even then their testimony did not agree.” I’m convinced the prosecutor and the judge knew of his innocence, but in the hysteria of the times, elections and careers and the scaffold of authority required a villain/ victim.

    This week, Elena Herrada and I had the opportunity to meet Efren’s high school teacher, Inge Longpre, who lives on the white side of the river in Berrien Co., in St Joseph. She loved this young Mexican kid who always wore a tie, and was inducted into the National Honor Society. When he was indicted, she refused to believe it, accusations so incompatible with the person she knew. But as she read the newspaper accounts of the evidence, like the bloody T-shirt found at his home, she gradually became resigned and convinced he must actually have done it and believed it so for fifteen years. Then a few years ago, tracked down by a member of the support committee, she began to read the transcript of the trial and hear of evidence denied its day in court. The T-shirt turned out to be a shoe-polish rag, but the correction was never publicly made in the papers. She got a white person’s short course in the politics of race and was drawn into his struggle for justice and freedom. In this her husband supported her, but he alone. Her best friend would have thrown in as well, except for the objections of her spouse. Other friends shunned her involvement, asked her not to speak of it or turned away in contempt. It is as if the official story casts a spiritual pall over the town to this day. All of which makes her actions more than conscientious and courageous. I believe it is fair to call her a witness of the resurrection.

    Years ago I was very briefly a prisoner on the lower east side of NYC in “the Tombs.” That strikes me as a fitting name for a jail. Imprisonment, like exile, is consignment to death. To live under three life sentences is to be consigned to die in prison. But Efren, likewise, in his commitment to making an authentic life behind bars, and by his utter resilience and hope, is himself a resurrection witness.

    Our fast has coincided self consciously with Holy Week and we break it this evening (even as Efren breaks his own in Jackson) at the Easter Vigil. We’ve been mindful of Jesus, of his arrest and confinement, of the trial and false testimony, of the sentence declared and then enacted while as his mother looked on in agony. But perhaps even moreso, we recall the resurrection, when the one whom death could no longer hold captive was released.

    The season of Lent grew up around the fast of solidarity which the community undertook with those fasting in preparation for their baptismal vows and with those who had been somehow separated and prepared for reunion and reconciliation. We’ve been praying for just such a face to face reuniting.

    This week has also marked the beginning of the 6th year of the occupying war in Iraq. Personally, my own fast has also held, not a public political connection, but a personal remembrance of the war. Last week the Winter Soldier hearings took place outside Washington. This testimony which could well be a first step of a truth and reconciliation process were not covered by any of the major media. They were covered over and their truth buried.

    It is really seventeen years since this war began – longer than some of our young people who renew their baptismal vows tonight have even been alive; almost as long as Efren has been in prison. “Shock and awe” was an escalation of the first invasion and groundwar, the aerial bombardments and No Fly zones, the poisoning of the landscape with depleted uranium shells, the siege of Iraq taking hundreds of thousands of lives and decimating the infrastructure – all of which is continuous with the five-year occupation. We are made to live with perpetual war.

    That is part of the darkness in which our service begins. It is part of the present darkness into which the light of resurrection breaks. Leonard Cohen’s Anthem has a refrain that goes: “Ring the bells that still can ring/ forget your perfect offering/ there is a crack in everything/ that’s how the light gets in.”

    Resurrection is the crack in the seal on the tomb. It is the crack in empire; the crack in history; in the pall of silence; in the prison wall; in the hardened stone of our hearts…

    Resurrection means that God has entered history and the makers of perpetual war do not call all the shots or have the last word.

    Resurrection means as St Paul says, that Death has no dominion over us. We are freed from its fear and its power. It means the wind blows where it will and pushes the waters back and a way is made out of no way. The resurrection means the story lurches to life again in us.

    The resurrection of Jesus means that the call to discipleship is uttered again by the risen Christ: I am going before you… follow me. And again: follow me.

    The resurrection of Jesus means resistance to death.
    When we renew our baptism vows as again this night, we proclaim nothing less. In fear and trembling, joy and delight, we are called to be the militants of life.

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