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ISSUE 121 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/12/2007

Interfaith fast fosters peace

By Mara Fink
Associate Editor

Friday, October 12, 2007

Candles flickered outside Boe Chapel Monday night as students of various faiths held a peace vigil to end the War in Iraq. The vigil ended a day of fasting where students from all faiths fasted together from sunrise to sunset in accordance with the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

"The vigil provides a tangible way for students to express the call and uphold peace and justice. It helps us to recognize our connection with this war, not just within the war with people fighting, but also with people affected by it, and these connections are established through our faiths and common beliefs," organizer Aaron Stauffer '10 said.

The day started out with a pancake breakfast before sunrise; during lunch there was an opportunity for students to write letters to government officials to express wishes for peace in Iraq.

The fast was followed by a "breaking of the fast dinner" consisting of spaghetti, salad and brownies. About 50 to 60 students attended, and during the fast breaking were given the opportunities to write more letters to the government. The vigil followed immediately after.

Some students participated because of religious reasons. Justin Remer-Thamert '10 said he has been observing Ramadan all month and was glad that more students would be experiencing a fast.

"I was really excited about the opportunity for it to be interfaith and international, and I was raised in a tradition of peace so it's amazing to be able to do something to work for solidarity with the poor and those who are suffering," Remer-Thamert said.

At the vigil students stood in a circle illuminated by candlelight outside Boe Chapel, listened to a poetry reading and heard representatives from Christian, Jewish and Muslim student groups offer up prayers for peace.

Pastor Sandy Johnson from First United Church of Christ in Northfield also spoke, urging students to take a "fast" from our usual conditions of privilege and wealth. Following the vigil students were given the opportunity to write prayers of peace with sidewalk chalk on the concrete outside Boe.

Mikalia King '11 said she was glad to participate because it reminded people of what was going on in the world. "For me, it is a constant reminder of the war, because we're not directly affected by it. It shows that American citizens can't just ignore it. It's part of life and it's a constant at the moment," she said.

Stauffer worked with representatives from the Muslim Student Association, Jewish Student Organization, the Student Congregation and the Progressive Christian Fellowship to plan the interfaith event.

Students at St. Olaf were not the only ones participating in the fast, however; people all over the United States fasted as part of the nation-wide Interfaith Fast to End the War in Iraq, an event organized by the Shalom Center.

The fast coincided with the holy seasons of many different religions, including Islam's Ramadan, Judaism's Sukkot and Catholicism's Feast Day of Francis of Assisi, which all occur on or around this date.

The fact that this event was able to span across religious boundaries was a draw for many students.

"Faith is definitely an important part of the fast because war is hard to deal with as a Christian," Anna Schattauer '11 said. "[The fast] helped remind me how it's important to keep my faith and pray for change and that it doesn't have to be specific to one religion or denomination. It's nice to have so many religions together hoping for a common resolution."

Many students, including Remer-Thamert, expressed that they thought the event was an uplifting experience. "It's given me hope. Just that so many people would be willing to sacrifice their food for a whole day for something that is idyllic but might not make a difference in the eyes of government officials," Ramer-Thamert said.

King echoed Remer-Thamert's optimism. "Tonight made me think about how many people can be involved and can make a difference.

It means that there is a population that is concerned about what's going on and is not going to sit and be a bystander and go along with whatever the government does."

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