Darfur Fast in South Bend–Day 1

posted by Brenna Cussen on August 2nd, 2005

The fast in South Bend is also going quite well. There was a wonderful article about it on the front page of the “Local” section on Sunday. So many people read it and now know about the divestment campaign. The local TV station (WSBTV) also gave us 1.5 minutes on the evening news. Amanda Hart was a thorough journalist and she stayed with us to get footage for a full hour.

Chris Chocola came out to make sure we weren’t protesting his office. I said no, that we were letting people know he was going to support the “Darfur Peace and Accountibility” bill. However, we thought that his corner was a good place to get a lot of attention, and we had already told many people that we would be there, so we stayed.

We stay outside from 12-1 and from 5-6, as we continue to work and take care of our house, but this still enables different people to come out to join us each time. A priest came from 12-1 and a junior high school teacher who had read about us in the paper skipped her lunch in order to come out to be with us. She told us that reading our article had made her decide to go to Africa next summer. Several of our friends who support us also came out to stand with us.

The message we continue to give to people is to get Indiana to divest from companies doing business in Sudan. Many of those we talk to do not even know what is happening in Sudan, so we inform them. It has been a wonderful exercise in personalism, and we think it has been effective.

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  1. On August 5, 2005 at 15:09 Mike (Worcester) said:

    Here’s that article:

    Pair hope fast draws attention to Darfur
    Catholic Workers also plan vigil outside Chocola’s office.
    July 31, 2005

    Tribune Staff Writer
    Brenna Cussen, left, and Elizabeth Fallon, University of Notre Dame graduates and residents of the St. Peter Claver Catholic Worker House, are fasting and holding a vigil in downtown South Bend this week in solidarity with those suffering in the Darfur region of Sudan.

    When South Bend residents Elizabeth Fallon and Brenna Cussen were arrested for blocking the entrance to the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., in February, they went on a hunger strike to protest the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.

    This week, they will fast again, consuming only liquids Monday through Thursday, as a show of solidarity with those suffering in the North African country.

    “Fact is, there just isn’t enough happening,” said Fallon, 23, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.

    Cussen and Fallon, residents of the St. Peter Claver Catholic Worker community on West Washington Street, also will hold a vigil outside U.S. Rep. Chris Chocola’s office at 100 E. Wayne St. from noon to 1 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. each day this week.

    They hope to encourage Michiana residents to fight to end the genocide and to persuade Indiana representatives to divest public funds from companies that do business with the Sudanese government.

    “When you’re fasting, it adds an element of urgency to it,” Fallon said. “This is serious — I’m willing to suffer a little bit in order to express the urgency to others.”

    Since 2003, between 180,000 and 400,000 people have died and more than 2 million people have been forced from their homes in Darfur, according to U.N. and government reports.

    Last year, Congress and former Secretary of State Colin Powell declared the atrocities occurring in Darfur a genocide. But the crisis continues, Cussen and Fallon said.

    Several other Catholic Workers will return to Washington, D.C. this week to fast at the embassy.

    But Cussen and Fallon wanted to demonstrate locally.

    “Lots of people in South Bend keep looking for a way to get involved,” said Cussen, 26, a Notre Dame graduate who visited Sudan in 2004 to learn about the situation there.

    On July 22, Fallon and Cussen fasted and protested in front of Chocola’s office to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Congress’ declaration of genocide in Sudan.

    “We had the opportunity to just walk up to people on the sidewalk,” Fallon said. “There was a very personal dialogue.”

    This time, Cussen and Fallon hope to persuade Indiana legislators to prohibit investment of public funds in companies doing business in the country.

    On Thursday, New Jersey became the first state to divest its pension funds from companies that do business with Sudan. A similar law in Illinois takes effect in January.

    The Indiana State Teachers’ Retirement Fund and the Public Employees’ Retirement Fund of Indiana invest hundreds of millions of dollars in companies that do business with the government of Sudan, Cussen and Fallon said.

    The Catholic Workers are encouraging Michiana residents to join them in their hunger strike this week — in whatever capacity possible.

    “I like to hope that personal stories are really what can affect people most,” Fallon said.

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