Each year a fast is held in Paris (or in the Paris area) between Hiroshima and Nagasaki days (6-9 August) calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons in general, and the abolition of French nuclear weapons in particular.
The fast is organised by the Maison de Vigilance, which has been demonstrating against French nuclear weapons since 1984.
A movement, a campaign, and a spiritual home for opponents of nuclear weapons which organises monthly protests in front of the French ministry of defence, the Maison de Vigilance was for many years also a physical house located in the vicinity of the French strategic command for nuclear weapons, based in Taverny, outside Paris.
The yearly fast was initiated by Solange Fernex and Théodore Monod.
Fast for Life
Solange Fernex (1934-2006) was a human rights activist, a Green Party politician, and a tireless campaigner for the abolition of nuclear weapons. After many years in Africa, where she founded the local section of the humanitarian organisation Terre des Hommes, she returned to France in the early 1970s. She took a leading role in promoting ecological policies, including as a founder member of the French Green Party in 1984.
In 1983, together with 11 other activists in Paris, Bonn, and San Francisco – among them the German Green Petra Kelly and British Green Party spokesperson Sara Parkin – she participated in the ‘Fast for Life’. This was a protest against nuclear warhead testing and the deployment of SS-20 and Pershing II nuclear missiles by Russia and the US respectively.
The fast lasted for 40 days and won great worldwide sympathy.
A deep love of the planet
The son of a Protestant pastor, Théodore Monod (1902-2000) was a scientist, explorer and humanist, whose whole work was inspired by a deep love of the planet and of all species inhabiting it. A distinguished scientific career culminated in his nomination to the French Académie des Sciences in 1963.
His religious, humanist and political convictions found expression in his committed vegetarianism, his opposition to the war in Algeria, and above all his activism in favour of pacifism and against nuclear weapons.
I had the honour of taking part in the last of the yearly fasts in which Théodore Monod participated, in 1999; I also met Solange Fernex on this and other occasions. Both Théodore Monod and Solange Fernex radiated quiet determination, and a seriousness and purposefulness illuminated by humour and an obvious love of life.
The fast perpetuates their memory, as well as retaining all its forcefulness and unfortunately all its pertinence as a call to a forgetful world to come to its senses.
This year the fast is due to be held in Paris, right beside the Eiffel Tower.
The Maison de Vigilance invites supporters from across Europe and beyond to join its members for the fast, and to take advantage of the visibility provided by this high-profile venue to send a loud and clear message: ‘Abolish all nuclear weapons: we must and we can !’
The programme includes numerous actions and ceremonies during the course of the fast, and accommodation before, during and after the fast itself.