Magazine article Compass: A Jesuit Journal

No-Eating as Protest and Compulsion: Available in My Heart to the Poor

Magazine article Compass: A Jesuit Journal

No-Eating as Protest and Compulsion: Available in My Heart to the Poor

Article excerpt

I have always avoided serious fasting, being not only quite addicted to food but also thoroughly convinced that I was hypoglycemic and therefore had to eat constantly. Yet when I first heard about the Fast for Fairness, a national protest against the implementation of the Canadian Health and Social Transfer (CHST) which effectively ends national standards for our social programs, it drew me in a way no other "action" had in some time. The campaign was initiated by the National Anti-Poverty Organization and was supported by the national social movement coalitions, including the Ecumenical Coalition for Economic Justice. I was one of the hundreds of Christians who felt compelled to get involved.

I'm an activist who has been working in the area of women's economic rights for several years. I had been involved in the fight against the CHST, as well as welfare cuts in British Columbia, both involving serious violations of the basic human right to income security and further increasing the feminization of poverty. One day in early February I was listening to CBC radio and heard a seasonal worker from Prince Edward Island sobbing because she and her husband couldn't make their payments or feed their children. I woke up when I heard her cries of rage. My heart had become numb with all the statistics and political rhetoric; people were suffering and hungry, and things were only going to get worse. These cuts were profoundly morally wrong and I had to do something that was more concrete, more tangible and perhaps less comforatble than sign a petition or write a letter.

The Fast for Fairness offered me the possibility of taking a visible stand. I suddenly understood Jesus' words to his disciples when they were unable to cast out the demon in the young boy: "This type can be driven out only by prayer and fasting" (Mk 9:29; Mt 17:21). I recalled what Gandhi had said: "My religion teaches me that before a distress that no one can relieve, one ought to fast and pray."

Underemployed like many Canadians and with my son away from home, I was free to take five days at the end of March and join Sandy Cameron who was publicly fasting in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery for the week. …

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