Force-feeding at Gitmo: ‘What you have said in darkness, shall be proclaimed in light’

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A “feeding chair” at Guantanamo.

Today there will be a public witness in front of the White House at noon to demand the closing of Guantanamo and a restoration of the rule of law. As Ramadan starts, there are 106 prisoners on hunger strike and at least 45 are being force fed.

Luke 12:3 seems appropriate here:  “Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.”

Below is a note from the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in D.C. and Witness Against Torture:

“Where is the world to save us from torture? Where is the world to save us from the fire and sadness? Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?”  Adnan Latif, Yemeni Guantanamo prisoner held for ten years without ever having been charged with a crime and cleared for release on four separate occasions, found dead in his cell on September 8, 2012.

July 12 will be day 156 of the Guantanamo hunger strike. As many as 120 prisoners are now participating in the hunger strike. The military admits that 45 are being forcibly fed by tubes snaked through their noses twice a day because they have lost so much weight.

Prisoners have appealed to doctors not to participate in this forced feeding. Obama, who knows force feeding is condemned by the AMA and the United Nations, said on May 17, as he once again promised to close Guantanamo, “Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are?”

Apparently it is. And as Andy Worthington says, “We wait and we wait and still nothing happens.” Instead an additional 125 U.S. troops were recently sent to the prison to “contain” the situation.

On July 8 U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler dismissed a Syrian detainee’s request to end force-feeding saying she lacks jurisdiction to rule on conditions at the prison. However, she condemned the military’s practice of force-feeding detainees as “painful, humiliating and degrading” and said President Obama has the authority to stop it.

The vast majority of the 166 men have been held for more than 11 years without any charge or fair trial, with no end to their detention in sight although 86 have been cleared for release for years. Nearly two months has passed since Yemeni officials seeking the repatriation of the 56 Yemenis cleared for release agreed to set up a rehabilitation center to help reintegrate them. But nothing has happened since Obama lifted his ban on their repatriation.

Finally, word of the resistance actions is making it to the men at Guantanamo, and making an enormous difference to them. An attorney for several men at Guantanamo recently wrote Witness Against Torture to say:

I was at GTMO all week meeting with clients. I wanted to share with you the following words from . . . Moath al-Alwi, a Yemeni national who has been in U.S. custody without fair process since 2002.

Moath was one of the very first prisoners to reach GTMO, where the U.S. military assigned him Internment Serial Number (ISN 028). He has been on hunger strike since February and the U.S. military is now force-feeding him. Moath shared the following during our meeting, translated as accurately as I could from the Arabic:

“I recently had an interesting conversation with one of the Navy officers in charge of my force-feeding here at Guantanamo. He told he was here to make sure I was treated humanely as I was being force-fed. So I answered through the interpreter, saying:

‘What I am enduring now is torture and the American people will tell you as much. Humanitarian organizations, various human rights bodies, as well as American groups such as Witness Against Torture and Doctors Without Borders have all declared that what is taking place at Guantanamo is a violation of human rights and that it amounts to torture.’

The officer’s face changed and he walked away.”

The men at GTMO are fully aware of your work and their eyes literally tear up when I describe the various protest actions you and your fellow activists have undertaken in solidarity with their plight. To say they are grateful would be an understatement.

In response to this moving statement, WAT members Jeremy Varon and Datt Daloisio wrote: “Our eyes fill with tears as we contemplate the significance of what Moath shared: that our actions — however inadequate we feel them to be — help the men at Guantanamo resist assaults on their dignity and confront their persecutors, with added confidence in the justice of their position and the world’s concern for their plight. There can be no greater affirmation of the value of our efforts, nor greater motivation for us to work harder.”

Ramadan: Remembering Our Utter Dependence on the Unutterable One

by Khaleelullah Chemnad

Our Muslim cousins are in the season of Ramadan, from the first glimpse of the new moon on July 19 until the next new moon on August 18. A chance for all of us to remember our creaturliness and our utter dependence on the Unknowable and Unutterable One.

During this season consider reading The Illuminated Prayer: The Five-Times Prayer of the Sufis by Coleman Barks and Michael Green or The Heart of the Qu’ran by Lex Hixon to explore the beauty and grandeur of Islamic spirituality.

Below is an excerpt from Rabia Harris’ excellent short essay on Islamic Nonviolence. Rabia is the founder of the Muslim Peace Fellowship at the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

“… The Arabic term for that which is truly in charge in the world, upon which nonviolence depends, is ALLAH. You can hear that name in your heartbeat. In English, we generally refer to God. There’s only one.

The Muslim Peace Fellowship holds that nonviolence is the core social teaching of all the great religious traditions, and has been carried by all of the Messengers of God.

An Islamic approach to nonviolence will, however, differ in important ways from other understandings. Every religious community takes its distinctive quality from the Messenger who founded it. It follows that the community of Muhammad is perfumed with the perfume of Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. And Muhammad {peace and blessings be upon him: PBBUH}, like all of us, possesses both a worldly and a spiritual dimension.

Continue reading “Ramadan: Remembering Our Utter Dependence on the Unutterable One”

‘A Hungry Man Is An Angry Man’: Christians and Muslims Together in Overcoming Poverty

Christians and Muslims attend Mass in Baghdad as a celebration for Muslims rebuilding the church.
Christians and Muslims attend Mass in Baghdad as a celebration for Muslims rebuilding the church.

The Vatican’s inter-religious dialogue council sent a “Happy Id al-Fitr” message to Muslims around the world as they come to the end of Ramadan on Sept 19-20 by inviting them into common cause on ending poverty.

Ramadan is a time when Muslims reflect more deeply on the real meaning of life by being close to God and their neighbors. As part of this, they heighten their awareness of the needs of others, especially the poor, though fasting and practices of charity.

Christians and Muslims: Together in overcoming poverty looks at poverty that is the result of human sin and the loss of human dignity but also at poverty that is chosen and embraced as an example of one’s humility before God.

Indonesian priest Markus Solo serves in the middle of enormous tensions and violence between Muslims and Christians and between people of genuine faith and extremists. Around the world, Solo says, poverty “is getting worse after the recent economic and financial crisis. Everybody knows that poverty is a real and bitter challenge for people living in the developing countries, which also happen to be religious ones.”

The Vatican message noted a link between poverty and extremism or violence, a theme Father Solo echoed. He quoted the English proverb: “A hungry man is an angry man.”

Here’s an excerpt from the Vatican’s invitation:

On the occasion of your feast which concludes the month of Ramadan, I would like to extend my best wishes for peace and joy to you and, through this Message, propose this theme for our reflection: Christians and Muslims: Together in overcoming poverty. …

In his talk on the occasion of the World Day for Peace, 1st January 2009, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI distinguished two types of poverty: a poverty to be combated and a poverty to be embraced.

The poverty to be combated is before the eyes of everyone: hunger, lack of clean water, limited medical care and inadequate shelter, insufficient educational and cultural systems, illiteracy, not to mention also the existence of new forms of poverty “…in advanced wealthy societies, there is evidence of marginalization, as well as affective, moral and spiritual poverty…” (Message for the World Day of Peace, 2009, n. 2).

The poverty to be embraced is that of a style of life which is simple and essential, avoiding waste and respecting the environment and the goodness of creation. This poverty can also be, at least at certain times during the year, that of frugality and fasting. It is the poverty which we choose which predisposes us to go beyond ourselves, expanding the heart.

As believers, the desire to work together for a just and durable solution to the scourge of poverty certainly also implies reflecting on the grave problems of our time and, when possible, sharing a common commitment to eradicate them. In this regard, the reference to the aspects of poverty linked to the phenomena of globalization of our societies has a spiritual and moral meaning, because all share the vocation to build one human family in which all – individuals, peoples and nations – conduct themselves according to the principles of fraternity and responsibility. …

The poor question us, they challenge us, but above all they invite us to cooperate in a noble cause: overcoming poverty!

Read the whole message here. (As an aside, this message also references JPII’s 2001 address on establishing a “common ethical code,” particularly in the financial industry. It’s worth a read.)