Georgian Opposition Hunger Force

Why is hunger striking “un-Christian”?

The hunger strike in Tbilisi enters its third week, with sixty-some protesters camped out on the front steps and in the halls of Parliament. They’re demanding, primarily, that the upcoming parliamentary elections have more seats allocated by proportional party list and fewer by majoritarian districts. Long Kesh, it’s not.

Both the president and the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church have called for an end to the hunger strike, deeming it un-Christian. No Georgian whom I’ve asked has been able to explain what they mean by “un-Christian.” Aside from some general precepts about not inflicting harm on oneself, I don’t know what the Christian objection to hunger striking is. Matthew 5:6 says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,” which doesn’t seem to apply.

Recent years have seen hunger strikes by a Brazilian Catholic bishop opposed to an irrigation project, a USN Episcopalian chaplain seeking to offer Christian prayers at official ceremonies, a Vietnamese Catholic priest protesting police surveillance, a Ukrainian Orthodox priest in a property dispute between two churches, and a charismatic preacher in Belarus demanding official recognition of his denomination. Also, a nun (George Stephanopoulos’ sister) trying to get the Pope’s attention in resolving a dispute between two branches of the Russian Orthodox Church, over a monastery in Jericho (no, I don’t understand how the Pope figures in this, either).

No matter. The opposition has rejected the Patriarch’s plea, and the hunger strike continues, in a tent city that looks like base camp at K2. If base camp had snack vendors circulating through the crowd.

Footnote: About 80 percent of the population of Georgia belongs, at least nominally, to the Georgian Orthodox Church, and the Patriarch is the one public figure who is generally regarded as above criticism.