Fasting for Darfur

Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service, is fasting on June 15 and 16 (today and tomorrow) to raise awareness about the dire conditions in Darfur. Her fast is part of the Darfur Fast for Life “fasting chain” – successive two-day blocks of fasting by activists, entertainers and political figures.

Messinger has invited AJWS members and others to join her in her fast.

“A person can suffer no greater indignity than not being able to feed his or her children or prevent dehydration that is often deadly,” Messinger said in a videotaped message.

I grew up with what seemed like nightly stories about famine in Africa — always broadcast on the evening news while my family was eating dinner. I was in 9th grade when “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “We Are the World” were released. I’m sad to say that part of me has learned to accept this kind of human suffering as a simple fact of life.

However, scientists and other experts are warning that conditions like those found in Darfur may easily become more commonplace if global warming continues to escalate. Drought and famine may become a way of life for far too many of us — though, really, should it be a way of life for anyone?

Fasting is difficult. Hunger impacts our higher thinking and compromises learning and productivity. And, as Messinger points out, hunger has a demoralizing affect as well, deflating our hopes day after day for a better future.

Those like Messinger who are choosing to fast in a protest of compassionate solidarity with Darfur are hoping that the temporary hunger and discomfort of fasting will teach us to listen, and to act. I hope so — compassion and heart-felt action are too often lacking in this world. But such fasting may teach us something else — what life could be like for many, many more of us, if we don’t get our acts together and start working more effectively with the planet, rather than against it.

(If you don’t know where Darfur is, you’re likely not alone. Many Westerners struggle with African geography. Darfur is in Western Sudan — on the northeast coast of Africa. Sudan is a large country bounded by Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Chad and Libya.

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