November 23, 2009
By Sister Claudia
Recently, I had an enriching experience participating in the Closing of the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) Watch and political action activities in Fort Benning, GA. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the brutal killings of six Jesuit Priests and their companions in El Salvador. What is noteworthy is that… many of these military tactics, espionage and methods of torture were learned in our schools, such as at SOA (often times referred to as the School of Assassins), and subsequently handed down and taught to their military personnel back home.
I, along with hundreds of other social activists, including the SOA Watch’s founder, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, MM, had hoped the SOA/WHINSEC would cease operating last year. We continue to hope that this year will be our last year here in Fort Benning, Georgia. However, we can only hope!!! We must continue to pray, lobby, and remain actively involved in our efforts, for our work is far from being finished!
In our breakout sessions, we listened to many sad stories, many atrocities, and many horrifying statistics of abuse and oppression. Yet, each session left me with much hope and energy because of the wonderful participation of so many of our younger folks. Students from across the country shared their energy and excitement. Many came to speak with us at the “Mercy Table” or as we walked up and down the demonstration area in front of the gates of Fort Benning. These reunions were refreshing; and, they were opportunities to remember and reflect on our Mercy Roots.
Whether old or young, many were excited to connect or reconnect with us, especially as they spotted our purple Sisters of Mercy Justice shirts. And, of course, this time also offered a wonderful opportunity to make other Mercy connections, to share ideas for volunteering experiences (in particular the Mercy Volunteer Corps) and, of course, to respond to those considering life as a Sister of Mercy. Above all, we were provided a continuous opportunity to share our common bond, rooted in Catherine McAuley. She, like us, advocated for justice, sought ways to end oppression, and stood up to unjust and immoral practices of education. In Catherine McAuley’s instructions, we are reminded to “let us not forget to prepare souls for earth without unfitting them for heaven.”
During the closing events we responded with the word, “Presente,” as the name of each martyred man, woman, and child was announced. We were again reminded and challenged to commit to continuing this memorial march once we returned back home. And, so, I encourage you to join me in praying for peace. Let us put an end to the acts of violence and torture around the world. Let us actively participate in closing down SOA/WHINSEC and any other military school where such tactics of abuse and torture are being taught!
Please contact your Senators and Representatives and tell them you want the SOA/WHINSEC closed and investigated with all the funding cut immediately. Please contact SOA Watch for more information and ways to get involved. God’s Blessings!