by Johnny Almond
BPFNA Communications & Technology Manager
The Baptist Peace Fellowship will be represented again this year at the School of the Americas (SOA) Watch in Fort Benning, GA. BPFNA members Dick and Beth Myers, Tom and MaryJane Coursen, and Dick and Ruth Stuart will be participating in the SOA Watch and sharing information about the BPFNA at an exhibit table. Members and others attending are encouraged to stop by the table and spend some time talking to others about the work of the BPFNA.
BPFNA members have represented the organization and participated personally in the SOA Watch for many years. Linda Mashburn, a long-time BPFNA member and current member of the board of directors, "crossed the line" several years ago and ultimately spent three months in prison for her actions.
From the event organizers, here is information on this year's SOA Watch:
November 20-22, 2009, Fort Benning, GA:
Mass Mobilization to Shut Down the School of the Americas
- The SOA graduate-led military coup in Honduras and the increasing US military involvement in Colombia put a renewed focus on the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC) and the policies it represents.
- Thousands from across the Americas will converge on November 20-22 at Fort Benning, GA for a vigil and civil disobedience actions to speak out against the SOA/ WHINSEC and to demand a change in US foreign policy.
- The vigil will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1989 SOA graduate-led Jesuit massacre in San Salvador, and the many other thousands of victims of SOA/ WHINSEC violence.
The military coup led by SOA graduates in Honduras has once again exposed the destabilizing and deadly effects that the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC) has on Latin America. Torture survivors and human rights activists from across the Americas, including Bertha Oliva, the founder of the Committee of the Family Members of the Disappeared (COFADEH) from Honduras and human rights defenders from Colombia will travel to Fort Benning, Georgia to participate in the mobilization.
The campaign to close the SOA/ WHINSEC is in a crucial phase right now. Despite promising comments from President Obama during his 2008 election campaign, the SOA/ WHINSEC is still in operation, the US is pouring millions into failing "military solutions" to combat the drug problems in Mexico and the Pentagon is moving forward with plans to use seven Colombian military bases in Colombia for offensive US military operations.
"It is up to us to hold those responsible accountable and to push for to closing of the School of the Americas and a change in US foreign policy" said Father Roy Bourgeois, the founder of SOA Watch. "Too many have died and continue to suffer at the hands of graduates of this notorious institute."
In the fall of 2009, opponents of the SOA/ WHINSEC achieved a victory when a joint House and Senate conference committee agreed to include language in the FY 2010 Defense Authorization bill that requires the Pentagon to release names of the graduates of the SOA/ WHINSEC to the public. The Pentagon had classified the names after the continued involvement of SOA/ WHINSEC attendees in human rights abuses became public.
for more information about the November vigil to close the SOA/ WHINSEC, lead-up actions and a complete schedule of events.