One of the most true and authentic spiritual experiences I’ve had in my life I got to experience twice- participating in a November demonstration at Ft. Benning in Columbus, GA, organized by SOA Watch . The simple mission, to end our government’s housing and funding of this military training school (formerly called The School of the Amiercas (SOA), now more euphemistically named The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation (WHINSEC)), that sends its graduates home only to see them commit some of the most horrible human rights atrocities, in their country and this hemisphere’s history. Read up on some the latest news about recent graduates at the website, you’ll see this tragic legacy continues, and/or is finally being unearthed in many cases, after decades of silence and cover-up. All paid for with our tax dollars.
I was able to participate in 1998 and 2000, and witnessed Jesus’ call to nonviolent revolution up close. More than 10,000 of us, each year, pledging ourselves to love and nonviolent transformation; more than 10,000 of us, each, praying for each other, the graduates themselves, and all their victims….and then a few thousand of us marching together, in a silent witness for those dead victims, standing up and speaking for them, “crossing the line”, risking arrest and imprisonment, calling our countries to a better conscience…. These were late November days that I felt most human, most Christian, most alive.
The demonstration is held every year in late November because it’s around the anniversary of one of the more well-known atrocities by SOA graduates- the murder of six Jesuit priests & professors at the University of Central America in San Salvador, El Salvador, their housekeeper, and her 15-year-old daughter, on November 16, 1989. I was at Xavier Univeristy in Cincinnati at the time, a Jesuit University. It was the most somber, serious, and sad time I’ve ever experienced at any school I attended. To be able to go to Columbus, to stand and speak for these martyrs, and all the good people that mourn them….to pray and act for their murderers’ own transformations, and the transformations of their countries and my own, into places of a better Peace….to connect in my own life how these evil acts affect me, and how I can in turn affect them, transform them now and into the future….
It’s a way too busy time in my life to get down there these days, so I must have my own demonstration, in some small way, at a distance. This year’s demonstration has just begun. So I’m hoping that, if you pray, or even if you don’t….you can join me, somehow, in holding all who will be and are at Ft. Benning in the Light, as well as all those people, all these great countries, that are affected by what we support at this school. Thank you for the spiritual contributions!