The Fast for Families is in keeping with a long biblical tradition of public fasting that seeks to move the conscience of a nation while openly confessing our total dependence on God. Esther and Mordecai held a public fast when the Jewish people were in peril. The prophet Daniel fasted to receive clear direction from God about the future of the nation. In modern history, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Desmund Tutu and countless others fasted publicly to draw attention to national challenges. Recently, Pope Francis asked for a global fast for peace in Syria. Public fasting is a discipline that reminds leaders and nations that there are things that need urgent attention.
To be clear, the winds are changing! The arguments that economists and business leaders should call for immigration reform on fiscal grounds is gaining ground. In addition, the report from the Bipartisan Policy Center stating that common-sense immigration reform would both help the economy and contribute to reducing the deficit has made a significant impact. Increasingly the spurious economic arguments that create zero-sum winners and losers are falling away. There is growing consensus that now is the time for immigration reform. The biblical and moral arguments of practicing hospitality, while not imposing undue hardships on citizens, are winning the day. Bipartisan efforts in the Senate and recent public remarks by both Speaker Boehner and President Obama signal that we might be close to a resolution. We are fasting so that all our leaders, Democrats and Republicans, will find the political will to have common-sense immigration reform cross the legislative finish line.
The significance of an Advent fast cannot be overstated. Advent is the season where Christians wait expectantly for Christ. Christ who is the embodiment of, “Peace on Earth and good will to all.” We await Christ who taught us to the parable of the Good Samaritan and the love of neighbor, friend, stranger, and even enemies. Christ who came to earth to manifest the love and grace of God. The Fast for Families, begun by immigrants themselves, is helping to change the winds. We will fast during Advent because we believe the words of Scripture that “prayer availeth much.”
This Advent Season the fast started by immigrants will be offered to the nation, with thousands joining from all over the nation. A group of faith leaders, including Rev. Jim Wallis and myself, will continue the fast. Many faith leaders and pastors will be coming to join us in the tent across from the Capitol to fast and pray. Each day, groups of us will fast and pray in the Capitol Hill tent, welcoming visitors and fellow-fasters who wish to join us. So please join us wherever you are this Advent Season in prayer and fasting. Pray for a vote on immigration reform. Pray for 11 million people and their families. Pray for a miracle. Prayer and righteous action work.
The Rev. Gabriel Salguero is president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition .