Springfield Dominican Sisters Pat Stark, Georgiana Stubner, and Marcelline Koch were joined by other Dominican Sisters and hundreds more people at Fort Benning, Georgia, Nov. 16-17 to participate in a vigil at the gates of the fort where for nearly 30 years the faith-based SOA Watch has worked to end training programs for Latin American armies who learned violent techniques they've turned against their own people.
Springfield Dominican Sisters have been present at most of SOA Watch vigils over the years. "When there is such gross injustice, it is important to raise our voices clearly and consistently," Sister Marcelline said. "This is what the widow does in the Gospel of Luke. She calls for justice. We call for justice for people whose voices are often silenced by power."
This year was especially poignant, because the vigil commemorated the 30th anniversary of the brutal assassination of six Jesuits, their housekeeper, and her daughter at the Central American University in San Salvador. SOA Watch was started by then-Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois in response to this massacre—one of the many atrocities that occurred in Central America as the United States funded civil wars and trained military in Georgia.
Since then, the SOA Watch movement has tracked and highlighted atrocities committed by military from Central and South American countries trained at the school, now named Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation. An estimated 83,000 Latin American state forces have been trained in counterinsurgency techniques (i.e. civilian-targeted warfare), sniper tactics, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence, interrogation tactics, and torture. Graduates of the SOA have consistently used these tactics to wage war against their own people—resulting in massacres, assassinations, torture, forced disappearances, the destabilizing of economies, land grabs by corporations that pillage the earth and value profit over people, and forced migration of millions throughout the hemisphere.
Now those techniques will apparently be used to train U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offficers working in the U.S. According to a September announcement by ICE officials, Fort Benning will be the new location of an “urban warfare” training facility that is expected to include “hyper-realistic” simulations of homes, hotels, and commercial buildings in Chicago and Arizona. This means that ICE, in addition to US Border Patrol agents already being trained at the SOA/WHINSEC, will have access to similar training to use on communities within the United States.
Learn more here about the Springfield Dominican Sisters work for social justice.
Our Corporate Stance
Closing the School of the Americas (now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHISC) (adopted August 1996)
We, the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois, join our voice in calling for the closing of the U.S. School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, because it continues to perpetuate violence against our Latin American sisters and brothers. Fact Sheets
In supporting the Springfield Dominicans' corporate stance of closing the SOA/WHINSEC school Sisters Georgiana Stubner, Patricia Stark and Marcelline are traveling to Fort Benning, Columbus, GA for the 30th Anniversary Commemorative Gathering. https://t.co/tRAZbfG3rf#Truth pic.twitter.com/ImGXMOZ6A7— Springfield OP (@springfieldop) November 15, 2019