Fasting is often used as a tool to make a political statement, to protest, or to bring awareness to a cause. A hunger strike is a method of non-violent resistance in which participants fast as an act of political protest, or to provoke feelings of guilt, or to achieve a goal such as a policy change. A spiritual fast incorporates personal spiritual beliefs with the desire to express personal principles, commonly in the context of a social injustice.
Notable annual fasts include the famine events (such as the 40 Hour Famine) coordinated by World Vision to bring awareness to world poverty and hunger.
Activists have also used fasting to bring attention to a cause and to pressure authority or government to act.
In Northern Ireland in 1981, a prisoner, Bobby Sands, was part of the 1981 Irish hunger strike, protesting for better rights in prison. Sands had just been elected to the British Parliament and died after 66 days of not eating. His funeral was attended by 100,000 people and the strike ended only after 9 other men died. In all, ten men survived without food for 46 to 73 days, taking only water and salt.
In British India, the political and religious leader Mohandas K. Gandhi undertook several long fasts as political and social protests. Gandhi's fasts had a significant impact on the British Raj and the Indian population generally.
César Chávez undertook a number of spiritual fasts, including a 25 day fast in 1968 promoting the principle of nonviolence, and a fast of 'thanksgiving and hope' to prepare for pre-arranged civil disobedience by farm workers. Chávez regarded a spiritual fast as "a personal spiritual transformation". Other progressive campaigns have adopted the tactic.
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