It takes courage and a quiet determination to follow in the Gandhian footsteps of starting a long fast to give support to a very worthwhile cause.
Tim Martin is one such person. Director of the human rights group, Act Now, Tim undertook a fast in May in London to put pressure on the Sri Lankan government and the international community to relieve the terrible plight of Tamil refugees suffering incredible hardships in huge refugee camps in northern Sri Lank after the army defeated the Tamil war for independence.
I have known Tim since he was a child. We live in the same street in Totnes. My daughter rang me up and said that she had just seen a clip on You Tube with Tim appealing on behalf of the Tamils during his fast.
Tim, 30, is a brave guy. He abandoned his fast after three weeks after receiving assurances that the UN and the British government would put pressure on the Sri Lankan government to speed up rapidly the process to allow Tamils to lead a full life with equal opportunity as any other citizens in the country. There is a great danger that the shadow of blame will fall upon them and they will be treated for years as second class citizens. Tim will speak to a Parliamentary group, UN officials and other international bodies as a direct outcome of his fast.
As you can imagine, Tim has become a living hero among the Tamils for starting his fast in front of Parliament House. Tim had been an aid worker in Sri Lanka and developed deep concerns for the nightmare the Tamil people had to endure, as well as Sinhalese, during the 30 years of civil war. His fast touched the Tamil community deeply especially that he is an Englishman, not a Tamil. They deeply appreciated that a person could be willing to take such steps on their behalf.
He lost about 13 kilos during his fast. His blood pressure fell to 80/52. He experienced extreme weakness and dizziness. For four days after the fast, his body couldn’t take liquid food.
I met with Tim in the Barrel coffee shop, Totnes, a couple of weeks after the fast. He said: “Christopher, we are the new generation who give service. We have much appreciated your efforts and now we, the younger generation, carry on serving others.”
I replied: “Thanks for your kind words, Tim. I’m not in your league. “To fast for three weeks shows incredible conviction.”
I thought afterwards. “He’s in the premier division of the bodhisattva league. The rest of us do what we can.”