It was a sobering but powerful experience to stand on Sunday, Nov. 24 at the gates of Fort Benning (Columbus, GA), home of the SOA (School of Americas (renamed in 2001 the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, and now nicknamed “School of Assassins”) with thousands of others, to remember those who have been killed by Latin American graduates of this school and to call for the school to be shut down.
Groups in the crowd carried banners. Puppeteers performed street theater. Most of us carried small white crosses with the names of those killed—educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, children, and others who have worked for the rights of the poor. We walked in prayer, and honored the victims of violence with calling out “Presente!” when their names were called.
I looked up above the gates at the blue sky with wisps of clouds. My inner eye imaged the shadow of a mountain rising up above the gate—the presence here of the power of evil. The evil is not the people who work at this base, but the policies and systems of oppression perpetuated here, equipping governments who carry out the massacres, rapes, disappearances.
On Thursday, I was one of many others from the Christian Peacemaker Teams who visited inmates at the StewartDetentionCenter in Lumpkin, GA. The following day, we were part of a vigil in the center of town calling for the closing of this privately owned and run (for profit) prison for undocumented immigrants. We learned that these men, most of whom had not committed crimes, (others, minor offenses), had been picked up and kept here just because they were immigrants. In the center, food and water are rationed and sometimes withheld for punishment, and men are held without legal representation (some
for years) until they are deported
I mourn the inhumane treatment of our brothers and sisters here and around the world, but at these events I also feel hope. I believe that the power of violence and oppression is not as powerful as the acts of love and actions of masses of people speaking and living out the truth and working for transformation of these forces and institutions of violence and oppression. In these gatherings and actions I’m encouraged to continue living and acting out of this love and hope.