“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to lose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” wrote the ancient prophet Isaiah (58:6). As Christians around the world enter the season of Lent, the challenge of the prophets is to not enter into empty rituals, but to recommit ourselves to fearless acts of justice.
This Lent Christians are standing in solidarity with Syrians by joining a rolling fast launched by Pax Christi International. The acute suffering of civilian communities in Syria has been made immeasurably worse by a shortage of bread, Syrian’s staple food, caused in part by the deliberate bombing of bakeries.
Open to anyone concerned about the anguish of local communities caught in Syria’s civil war, the campaign, called “Bread is Life – Fast for a Just Peace in Syria,” is a direct response to the fact that many Syrians feel abandoned by the rest of the world.
Syrian civilians believe that Syrian authorities are causing the food crisis as a form of collective punishment in response to their demands for freedom.
During a three week period in August 2012, Syrian government forces dropped bombs and fired artillery at or near at least 10 bakeries in Aleppo province, killing and injuring dozens of civilians waiting for bread.
On Oct. 23, Syrian government forces killed at least 20 people after shelling a bakery in a rebel-controlled neighborhood in Aleppo.
On Dec.23, more than 100 people were killed when Syrian warplanes bombed a bakery in the western village of Halfaya.
On Jan. 15, 44 people were provided emergency medical treatment at a field hospital operated by Médecins Sans Frontières after several explosives were dropped on a village in north western Syria, one of which landed near a bakery.
At the same time, humanitarian activists in Syria have denounced members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) for selling flour reserves in order to buy arms. They have also witnessed how members of the official army and members of the FSA arrive at bakeries shooting in the air so they can avoid waiting in line. Moreover, they take the quantities of bread they want for their personal use or to sell in the black market.
Through the “Bread is Life – Fast for a Just Peace in Syria” campaign, Pax Christi International is calling on Christians worldwide to support the Syrian people through dedicating specific acts of solidarity – like a day of fasting, letter writing, holding a prayer service or some other action – in support of a just peace in Syria.
Members of Pax Christi will deliver all messages of prayer and solidarity to their contacts in Syrian and in exile in surrounding countries near the end of Lent.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen?” challenges the Lord. How will we respond?
Marie Dennis is the Co-President of Pax Christi International and is currently working with Syrian civilian communities. Learn more about the Bread For Life campaign here.
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