“Remember those who are in prison as if you are in prison with them.”Hebrews 13:3
Every Thursday afternoon, for years now, a group of Women in Black and their male allies gather at the freeway overpass in my home town, Nevada City, California. Women in Black is a “world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence.”
On Thursday, April 11, we joined these friends with our “Torture is a Moral Issue” banner and our signs to “Close Guantanamo.” This local action was one of many taking place around the country on the National Day of Action to Close Guantanamo and End Indefinite Detention, sponsored by Witness Against Torture and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
This is the third month of a hunger strike among Guantanamo prisoners, who are suffering the cruelty and injustice of indefinite detention. Some of these men have been imprisoned for over ten years, without trial. Some were arrested as children. Some were tortured. Some hunger strikers are being force-fed, which many human rights groups claim is torture. Reports are coming in that they are now being shot with non-lethal weapons, as guards try to move them out of their communal facilities.
Over the years, they have been separated from their families, ignored by the media, and all but forgotten. Human rights campaigners and Interfaith groups have persistently tried to publicize their fate and gain justice for all who are imprisoned there.
As we stood there yesterday with our signs, most people driving by gave us a “thumbs up” or flashed a peace sign. One young man walking by asked me, “What’s this all about?” I briefly explained about Guantanamo. His response: “But this is Nevada City.” Then he walked away.
Those of us who live freely here in the United States may not realize how connected we are to the prisoners in Guantanamo. Their pain and their struggles may seem to have nothing to do with us. But we are connected to them, and to the people killed by U.S. drone strikes and other victims of our country’s foreign policy. I am a citizen. I pay taxes. I vote. I remain silent or I speak out. Our government can only take such actions through the active participation or the silent complicity of the people.
“But this is Nevada City.” Even if we do feel bad about what our country is doing, we may feel that there’s nothing we can do to bring change. This sense of fatalism is a spiritual sickness and a fruit of the Domination System, which benefits when a majority of people believe “there’s nothing we can do about it anyway.” My book, Shaking the Gates of Hell, describes this system, its outer and well as inner effects, and how to regain hope that can motivate action for change.
It’s not too late to take action on behalf of these men. To find out more about the hunger strikers or to make a phone call on their behalf, go toWitness Against Torture.
For Christians like me, this is the season of Easter, a time to celebrate the power of life in the face of death. But our neighbors in Guantanamo continue to suffer as victims of Empire, as Jesus did.
Signs of the Reign of Death are all around. It might be easy to give up and think that nothing I do can make a difference in the larger patterns of history. But my faith tells me otherwise, and my faith compels me to act. Love calls.
Whatever your faith, believe the unbelievable. Love conquers hate. Life conquers death.
There is hope. God can act through us. Even for the people in Guantanamo.