Springfield, Ill.—Twenty years ago the Dominican Sisters of Springfield unanimously voiced their desire to close a controversial U.S. military program that trains military and police forces in Central and South America who then use those skills to perpetrate violence and terror on the people of their own nations.
Their advocacy, and that of many other religious communities and social justice groups, has borne important fruit on this issue. Some Latin American countries have withdrawn from the program and now the Democratic platform committee has agreed to include a commitment to closing this program in the party platform at the upcoming Democratic National Convention.
Known as the School of the Americas, or more recently as Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC) this program has trained military leaders for countries like Guatemala, Peru, Colombia, and Chile who have later committed acts of terror and grave human rights abuses at home. One example is the 2009 coup in Honduras. It unleashed violence and human rights abuses that are responsible for the forced migration of thousands of Hondurans, many of whom are now seeking entry into the U.S. as a result.
Hundreds of Hondurans have been murdered, said the SOAWatch announcement, including indigenous environmentalist and social justice activist Berta Cáceres, who was shot in her house in the Honduran community of La Esperanza on March 3, 2016.
Dominican Sister Marcelline Koch, justice promoter for the Springfield Dominican Sisters, says that this reinstatement of a 2000 Congressional mandate to close the SOA/WHINSEC is “long overdue and a sign of hope that our national leaders understand that our national security depends upon our ability to safeguard the human rights of our Latin American sisters and brothers.”
A 1996 corporate stance supporting the closure of the SOA/WHINSEC was the second of twelve such positions the Dominican Sisters have taken since 1994. Others have supported concerns such as housing justice in Springfield, promoting a consistent ethic of life, creating a moratorium on genetically modified food, and dismantling racism. Visit here for details on each of the Dominican Sisters’ corporate stances.