Attending the School of the Americas (SOA) demonstration has been an important part of my schedule for the last ten years. Motivated by a faith that moves me to treat others as I want to be treated, this was a natural response. As a citizen of the United States, I am complicit in economic and military oppression toward God’s people all over the globe, especially the poor and vulnerable. My commitment to gospel values means that I must do my part, however small, to build God’s justice where I am called and show the oppressed they are loved. It is well documented that the SOA teaches terrorism, assassination and torture. A yearly presence is my expression of hope and solidarity in a very dark world. We have the sure hope that God will grant the grace of conversion to all responsible.
This year I went ten days early so I could accompany a group of Buddhists and friends who walk to Columbus from their Atlanta Dojo each year. It was a joy to be with them and encounter a great variety of supporters along the way, people of all races, creeds, ages and abilities. On Friday we stopped at the largest immigration prison in the United States, near Columbus, vigiled there for awhile and witnessed several people being arrested by trying to visit inmates who were immigrants. One man, with a wife from the United States and a three year-old son, has been there over a year, though his papers were in order. Much suffering for just one family out of the 2000 other inmates. To learn more and to see how you can help, visit www.logansdad.org.
This year, a large segment of the gathering, Jesuit students from around the nation, chose to go to Washington and lobby for the closing of the SOA. Because of their decision the number of participants at the SOA was 5,000, much smaller than past years. For me, numbers were not so important as faithfulness to God’s call for a world of justice and peace.
There were many great workshops and talks. Bishop Gumbleton spoke to a large Pax Christi group about the continuing dangers of nuclear war, and how we must commit to the abolition of these blasphemous weapons. A one act play by Jack Gilroy about Ben Salmon was especially moving for me since I have lived in Colorado for many years. Ben was a Denver Catholic and a conscientious objector during World War I and died early because of a torturous imprisonment. His daughter, a sister, was present and spoke to us.
This year I joined with the Dominican Sisters of Peace who were present and walked with them during the yearly funeral procession and litany. I was proud that our community was so well represented at such a holy and profound pilgrimage. I am confident that the rest of the congregation was with us in prayer and will continue to pray and act that the evils of the SOA will vanish from the face of the earth.