Thirty years after the Jesuits, their housekeeper, and her daughter were assassinated by military trainees of the School of the Americas, the SOA still exists and is wreaking havoc in Latin American countries. This past weekend Pax Christi USA went to protest the SOA in Fort Benning, Georgia, which is now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). As leaders at the protest said, they changed their name, but they haven’t changed their shame.
There were many PCUSA members and others in attendance at our program Saturday evening. The program was titled, “Solidarity, Resistance and Hope: The Spirituality of Nonviolence Lived Out in the Central American Martyrs and Struggles for Justice Today.” Executive Director, Johnny Zokovitch opened the program by reminding everyone that “protesting the SOA is in Pax Christi’s DNA.” Then, member of PCUSA, Scott Wright and Communications Coordinator, Rachel Schmidt led a portion on remembering the Jesuits, their housekeeper, and their daughter with seven volunteers reading a portion about each person killed. PCUSA National Council member, Jean Stokan, welcomed all prisoners of conscience who had been arrested and jailed for the cause of peace to be acknowledged. There was also a panel on grassroots campaigns in El Salvador and Panama as well the efforts of the SOA Watch. The program ended with words from Araceli Rodriguez whose son was murdered by US Border Patrol, and a candlelight vigil.
Sunday morning PCUSA joined the peace walk led by Buddhist monks to the gates of Ft. Benning where Roy Bourgeois spoke, the puppetistas danced, and a litany of the names of those killed by SOA trainees were sung with the crowd responding “Presente!”
See the program here. Checkout pictures of the weekend protesting the SOA by clicking the picture below.