Posted by on July 3rd, 2006

By Medea Benjamin

I had volunteered to be in charge of the spiritual part of the fast, the half-hour in the morning that we ground ourselves in what we're doing and why. Some of the CODEPINKers laughed when I volunteered for this, thinking that I'm not very religious and that perhaps the priest would be a better spiritual guide for us. But the one part of the fast I am looking forward to is the spiritual part-deepening our own commitment to ending violence, forming stronger bonds as a community.

It's true I don't participate in organized religion and tear my hair out at new age spirituality that's not grounded in the here and now. But Gandhi said, "I call that man religious who understands the suffering of others." Those of us who not only understand that suffering but try to alleviate it are deeply religious, whether we acknowledge it in a formal way or not.

I didn't have a lot of time to spend searching for good spiritual material, so I contacted a few colleagues for advice. One is Kristi Laughlin, a good friend who used to work with CODEPINK until she decided to go to Theology School..

Kristi wrote back write immediately,

I love it! You are unearthing that spiritual guru in you. I knew it was just a matter of time :-)

Actually, I do not have a lot of resources on hand. I have been meaning to seek out just what you mentioned--a good book full of all kinds of spiritual stuff. I think the stuff I have tends to be a little too Catholic. But I know folks at school would often use selections from these books:
1 - Earth Prayers From around the World: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth, by Elizabeth Roberts
2 - Peace Prayers: Meditations, Affirmations, Invocations, Poems, and Prayers for Peace by Harper San Francisco Staff

Even after theology school, I am still not much for the Bible. The only passage I consistently gravitate to are the Beatitudes. So I have attached that with just a couple of prayers that I like. My favorite prayer (besides the Prayer of St. Francis) is the Prayer of Oscar Romeo, which is not written by him but somehow attributed to him and in his spirit. That is attached too.

For more ritualistic purposes, it is always nice to do a Litany---of names with responses. That is very Catholic! And is very common, as you know, in the Central American Solidarity movement with calling out "Presente!" But you can create any appropriate call and response for a litany you create.

And one of my favorite songs that is essentially a prayer is: Solo le Pido a Dios. You must know that song too. I bet Mercedes Sosa has done a version. The lyrics are attached. And for a more inspirational kind of simple song that can be sung in a round is "Step by Step"

Step by step the longest march can be won, can be won
Many stones can form an arch, singly none, singly none
And by union what we will, can be accomplished still
Drops of water turn a mill, singly none singly none

Good luck with the fast!!!!
Much love, Kristi

Another friend I contacted was Deborah Kory, who worked with the progressive Jewish group Tikkun before returning to school as well. I told her that I, the semi-atheist, was in charge of the daily spiritual openings and needed nice things to read or sing. Here's her response:

That is HILARIOUS! I don't think I've ever heard someone call themselves a "semi-atheist." Does that make you an agnostic? Can't get the God out of the Jew? Or is it more like a what-happened-before-the-big-bang kind of thing?

So, you are in charge of the morning invocation....I'd love to help you with this. I'm assuming you're wanting some universal we-are-all one themes, but maybe also some voices from different faiths. I will look through my "spiritual" archives for stuff to bring to you.

I just had a long conversation with Patricia Ellsberg [wife of Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, who will be participating in the fast] who had a great idea to collect the readings and morning invocations and also ask the fasters who are the people and what are the writings that have inspired them to acts of nonviolent civil disobedience and then to put together some kind of anthology that Code Pink could use and sell to further its message.

I really believe in what you're doing and I think the hunger strike has the potential to be really impactful...

Love and Blessings for the journey,

So already, before we have even started the fast, a good idea has emerged.

On the plane to DC, I found a great feast of inspiration. Just this week, Alice Walker's publisher had sent me a manuscript of her new book We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Light in a Time of Darkness. Alice has been a great supporter of CODEPINK. She was with us at our big march on International Women's Day, March 8, 2003, right before the war began. She wrote a beautiful essay about her experience that I have taken inspiration from ever since. And when we asked her to do a solidarity fast with the long-term fasters, she wrote back this lovely message:


I loved the message, especially that it was all in caps.

When Alice's new manuscript arrived, I decided to save it for the plane ride. And wouldn't you know--it turned out to be exactly what I'd been searching for. I eagerly devoured the book, selecting the passages I thought would best speak to the fasters.

There was a brilliant essay on the need to stop, sit and reflect called All Praises to the Pause: The Universal Moment of Reflection. Part of it talks about menopause as such a moment of reflection. I'm not sure how that section will go over with Father Louie, the soldiers and the Iraqi men joining the fast, but the CODEPINK women will love it. And there's a wonderful poem that will work just perfectly for July 4. It's a poem for The Patriot that says can you show your love for America by loving AMERICANS, like the grandfather with the eagle feather in his braid and the man with the rosepink turban and the sister on the bus with the nappy hair. "Love us. We are the flag," she says. Perfect for July 4th in Washington DC.

Landing in DC, I turned on my cell phone. There was a message from my husband, Kevin, who is fasting in solidarity from our home in San Francisco and had been helping me put together some spiritual essays, like a great one we found by Wendall Berry called The Failure of War. Kevin grew up Catholic and rejected the traditional church but is very spiritual. He loves Jesus the revolutionary and quotes him all the time.

"I just wanted to wish you good luck, baby," his message said. "And I was thinking on the ride home how the fundamentalists believe in God, too, but they reject science-they reject evolution,deny global warming. We embrace religion AND science, which is what the planet needs right now to survive. And we also believe in true democracy-rule by the people. You are practicing real democracy-that's why you're fasting. I'm proud of you."

I guess I'd just add that what distinguishes us from fundamentalists is also that we love all people, believers and non-believers, no matter where they were born, what borders they crossed, how much money they have or what color they are. The grandfather with the eagle feather, the man with the rosepink turban, the sister on the bus with the nappy hair. One love.

Blessed are the peacemakers. Let the fasting beginů