Whatever your media outlet of choice is today: internet, television, newspaper, the menu is the same. We receive unrelenting coverage of the presidential race along with the latest news from Syria and Iran. All are important. But, falling off the map are Central and South American countries, with continued human rights abuses.
Since 1990 the School of Americas Watch began in a tiny apartment outside the gates of Ft. Benning in Columbus, Georgia. This followed the slaughter of six Jesuit priests, their co-worker, and her teenage daughter in El Salvador. The perpetrators were graduates of the School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (as if sanitizing the name changes the reality). The long, ugly history of the SOA includes torture, murder, rape and "disappearances" from Guatemala to Mexico, Peru, Honduras, and beyond. In Guatemala, Oscar Perez Molina, SOA graduate and murderer, is now in power as president.
Each year in November thousands travel to Ft. Benning to call for its closing. I have taken part in two demonstrations and traveled to Washington to lobby senators and representatives to end this tragic chapter in our history. I have been moved by those sacrificing time and money to attend: students, Veterans for Peace, Grandmothers for Peace, sisters, clergy from many faith traditions.
Sr. Kathleen DeSautels of the 8th Day Center for Justice, says very well the importance of this gathering: "The November event renews my spirit of hope that a better world is possible. What could be more enlivening to one's spirit than enriching educational workshops, riveting political insights, and enlivening music at the stage in front of the gates all Saturday afternoon.... I need the creative and welcoming spirit of the community that gathers to feed my resolve to keep on in the struggle for justice."
Although today's calendar says August 7, it is not too early to plan a trip to Ft. Benning for the November 16-19 vigil. We need to keep the lights on! Please consider joining thousands to say "Presente" as the names of thousands of women, men and children who have been tortured and murdered are read.
Dominican Sisters and Associates of Peace will again be invited to attend. This invitation goes to anyone reading this blog - please join us.