A Response to Suffering

In a pre-Lenten CCSJ Ignatian Advocacy meeting, a co-worker and friend of mine asked for volunteers to fast during lent. We were told we would be fasting with the “Fast for Families” campaign that is appealing for comprehensive immigration reform because our current immigration system breaks families apart through technically lawful yet morally irresponsible arrests and deportations.

I thought, “why not?” I assumed we would be fasting in an effort to show solidarity with migrants who flee starvation and poverty in their home countries, and I still think that’s a part of, but certainly not all of, it. My following questions were, “how will this action impact the immigration debate?” “Will it at all?” “How will denying myself food convince my legislative representatives that our immigration system should be welcoming instead of discriminatory?” For answers to this question, I looked to a historical faster who brought about great change through hunger strikes and fasts.

Mohandas Gandhi fasted for a lot of things in his career as an advocate for the poor. He fasted for just wages, social unity and an end to violence: all very lofty goals in a world as fractured as ours was then and is today. He was revered by most Muslims and Hindus in India as an extremely holy man for his rejection of his humanity and obsession with overcoming human weakness. Because of his prophetic place in his country, his people came to a standstill every time Gandhi punished himself for his society’s sins. India was so attached to Gandhi as a spiritual leader that they were forced to stop, reflect and discuss on the occasions where he threatened his own health and well-being in response to social systems he deemed unjust.

None of us are prophets as Gandhi was, but we all have a reason for fasting this Lenten season. Food is, obviously, essential to human survival, so, without food, human beings suffer. How are our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters suffering in our society? The formal immigration system discourages people from applying for visas and citizenship because usually it takes years and a small fortune to navigate the red tape that is involved in being able to come and stay in our country. For this reason, migrants find ways around our walls and guns in the attempt to find a life away from poverty, violence and oppression. If they circumvent the system, like many do, they often find a new kind of oppression here in a country where supposedly all men and women are recognized as equal. Upon arriving in the United States they often encounter the suffering of being separated from families, heritage and social services because they “didn’t follow the rules” or “didn’t wait in line” like the good immigrants did.

There are many parts of the immigration question that deserve further conversation and discussion that I could not include due to a few space constraints (of which I am fairly certain I have already exceeded), but I do know that migrants are oppressed in our country. I’m deciding to fast periodically throughout this Lenten season because our immigration policy needs to change, and fasting with a community that is advocating for just reforms of this system helps me understand what fasting means.

Ian Fallon
Class of 2015
College of Arts and Sciences
CCSJ Student Coordinator

The CCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Creighton Center for Service and Justice (CCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the CCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.