Experiencing the SOA Watch the First Time
By Sister Michelle
After many years of being aware of the annual School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) protests at Fort Benning, GA, I finally was able to attend. I was inspired by the presence of so many Catholic groups as well as the intergenerational mix of college students, middle aged activists, and older people aided by canes and wheelchairs. Fr. Roy Bourgeois and Martin Sheen were the celebrities who spoke from a long history of efforts to close the SOA. Mercy Sisters Anita Siufi (Argentina), Tita Lopez (Panama), and Mercy Associate Nelly (Honduras) were the Mercies who have lived daily with the effects of the SOA in their respective countries.
My impressions connect with the sentiments of our Sisters of Mercy 5th Institute Chapter Declaration which states that we intend to “unmask and address the underlying causes of our Critical Concerns (http://bit.ly/nzf1gq) and the interconnections among them.” The continuing existence of the SOA and its history of militarization in the Americas violates every one of our Critical Concerns (http://bit.ly/nzf1gq), i.e., the practice of non-violence, anti-racism, reverence for Earth, and concern for women and immigrants. The causes of violence, racism, and disrespect for immigrants, women, and Earth itself lie in the greed and inhumanity of ‘the few’ who continue to maintain control over resources in many parts of our world, with complete disregard for the needs of ‘the many’.
In one of her several talks during the protest event, Nelly del Cid reminded us that the 3 most lucrative issues on our planet today are trafficking in persons, drugs, and arms. This scandalizing fact awakens in us a sense of urgency to act and a renewed support for all those resisting the devaluation of human life for the sake of greed and profit. As we address together causes of the Critical Concerns of our time, we could ask:
- Why is it that the U.S., with only 4% of the world’s population, has 50% of the world’s military?
- Why is it that theU.S.has troops in approximately 130 countries currently?
- When President Obama proclaimed his intention to withdraw our troops fromIraq, why did he not tell us (or the Honduran government) that 550 of those will be deployed toHonduras?
- In a country where 80% of us claim to be Christian, why do we tolerate such inhumanity to our brothers and sisters who are impoverished, not because of lack of resources, but because of manipulation and misuse of power?
How do we, the Sisters of Mercy, as well as U.S. citizens and taxpayers, get in touch with our own complicity which results in the denial of basic human rights in so many parts of our world? When we and many other groups commit ourselves to work for systemic change, we encounter a system that privatizes land and water, seeds and crops, the very basics of life itself.
Where can we find the courage to continue to seek the welfare of our brothers and sisters if not in the placing of our hope in the God of Mercy, Wisdom, and Mystery, whose compassion extends to the fall of a sparrow? We must be in solidarity with all of those who, past and present, resisted and continue to resist the unjust structures created by a military culture that is becoming more and more pervasive in our world. Our planet is too beautiful to be destroyed; our brothers and sisters worldwide are too beautiful to be dominated by those who only seem to value the bottom line.
Read the statement Sister Michelle gave at the School of the Amercas. View photos from the event on the Sisters of Mercy Facebook page. Watch Sister Michelle speak at the School of the Americas.