How Fasting Works

Hunger Strikes

Throughout history, people have used various methods for making their political statements heard. Fasting -- or going on hunger strikes -- has also been used as an effective way of getting one's message across. Hunger strikes are a non-violent method of trying to achieve a certain point or exerting pressure on the governing body.

Hunger strikes have been fairly effective in achieving the goals of the one fasting. For example, Mohandas Gandhi used fasting to protest a British proposal for a new Indian constitution that would perpetuate the caste system in politics [source:]. His hunger strike message was heard around the world and brought much publicity to this important issue.

In 1981, Bobby Sands died at the Maze prison in Northern Ireland after fasting for 66 days. According to the BBC, his hunger strike demands included a request for republican prisoners to regain lost remission; that they should be able to wear their own clothes; that the prisoners should have time to socialize, visit and mail; and that they shouldn't have to do penal work as part of their sentences. Nine other prisoners died and more than 60 others perished in the violence that followed. James Prior, the Ulster secretary, met the prisoners' demands to be able to wear their own clothes and to receive 50 percent of their lost remission time for three months' good behavior [source: BBC].

Another famous hunger strike -- the 40-Hour Famine -- is an annual event in Australia, where participants give up food and drink and donate to various children's charities. This event has been highly publicized and gained recognition worldwide. What has made past hunger strikes particularly successful was having masses of people participating. Major universities around the world have gone on hunger strikes – thousands of people – in order to prove a particular point.

Also, having well-known individuals take part in political fasting can draw great attention to the message being addressed. Such was the case with Gandhi.

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More Great Links


  • Baab, Lynne. "Fasting: Spiritual Freedom Beyond Our Appetites." Downers Grove, Ill. : IVP Books. 2006.
  • Colbert, Don. "Get Healthy Through Detox and Fasting." Lake Mary, Fla.: Siloam Publishing. 2006.
  • Cox, Lauren. "Do You Need to Starve Before Surgery?" ABC News. March 25, 2009. (Dec. 27, 2011)
  • "Sep 16, 1932: Gandhi begins fast in protest of caste separation." (Dec. 30, 2011)
  • Kroner, Zina, M.D. Personal interview conducted Sept. 10, 2009.
  • Martin, Courtney E. "Columbia University Students Go On Hunger Strike." The Huffington Post. Nov. 9, 2007. (Dec. 30, 2011)
  • McKnight, Scot. "Fasting: The Ancient Practices." Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Press. 2009.
  • WebMD. "Fasting." (Dec. 27, 2011)
  • World Vision Australia. "About the 40 Hour Famine." 40 Hour Famine. (Dec. 30, 2011)

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