by Dunya Cope
Every year, tens of thousands of people from around the country and world gather in Fort Benning, Georgia, to call for the closure of the School of the Americas/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC). The SOA gained its notoriety in the 1980s, serving as a training ground for armies and paramilitaries of Central and South America. SOA graduates were trained in counter-insurgency techniques, or in other words, trained to torture civilian populations. During the civil wars in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, SOA graduates were responsible for massacres of peasants, the indigenous, activists, and religious leaders such as Archbishop Oscar Romero and the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador.
The guests of Annunciation House frequently know the impact of the School of the Americas all too well. During the 1980s, Annunciation House accepted thousands of refugees fleeing violence in Central America, violence perpetuated by SOA graduates. With the era of civil wars now over, and most guests fleeing their countries because of economic, instead of political, violence, we can see how the role of militaries and paramilitaries has changed to one of upholding the economic exploitation and political turmoil that enrich the rich in the United States and Latin America at the expense of the poor throughout the hemisphere.
This November 16-18, activists, students, and people of faith will again gather at the gates of Fort Benning to witness on behalf of former guests of Annunciation House and the thousands of other martyrs of Latin America and to call for the closure of this School of Assassins. A community of volunteers from Annunciation House will be joining the protest this fall to witness, learn, and share our organization and the border reality with the thousands of other activists from around the country who are part of the movement for justice. We continue to discern how it is that our participation in such a gathering will be connected to local action, on-going education, and an enrichment of our work of hospitality.
We are asking for your support to help us make this trip possible. We are welcoming donations that will go towards the cost of transportation, accommodations, and food during the vigil. Since the SOA Watch is political in nature, donations are not tax-deductible.
Thank you so much for your support of Annunciation House’s work for peace and justice, supporting the rights of immigrants on the border and in their home countries.