God's Politics

This weekend, the Sojourners/Call to Renewal intern program traveled to Columbus, Georgia to participate in the annual vigil and nonviolent direct action events to close SOA/WHINSEC. Be sure to check back often this weekend for on-the-ground updates, and let us know through your comments what you think!

SOA/WHINSEC is a tragedy of our military’s recent history. Its connection to atrocities in Latin America warrants 10,000 protesters every year, calling for the school’s reform or closure. But when we walked around the rally and read the t-shirts of groups and individuals, it became apparent to us that there are many participants who focus on additional social issues: Veterans for Peace, Food Not Bombs, Amnesty International and Ten Thousand Villages, just to name a few. What is it that connects the work of the SOA/WHINSEC to these other issues? Is it simply the presence of U.S. military forces that draws opposition? Or is it a greater question of cultural change?

It seems the common message of the groups here at the march is a call for peace. It is a cry for a rejection of the cycle of violence that we commonly see resulting from military action. David Cline, national coordinator for Vietnam Veterans Against War and Veterans For Peace, connects his experience of war in Vietnam with this weekend’s events: “I came back from Vietnam wanting the U.S. to learn something … [and then] seeds of rewriting Vietnam began in Central America.” Veterans for Peace have been part of the SOA protest since its beginning. They are joined by many others who are seeking an alternative way to engage global conflict.

SOA/WHINSEC is also emblematic of a culture of violence that extends beyond the military. It enters our homes, our neighborhoods, and our cities. It is the statistics that we hear on the news about shootings, bomb threats, and fights in our schools. Violence feels inescapable at times. The thousands of people present at this march each year prove that there are many searching for alternatives to a culture where violence is seen as an inevitable “answer” to conflict. This weekend is not just a protest against a single institution, but a systematic cry for peace.

I bought a bumper sticker today that says, “When Jesus said ‘love your enemies,’ I think he probably meant don’t kill them.” Closing SOA/WHINSEC is a global issue, and a Christian issue; one that calls us to love and empowerment, rather than our current course of violence and manipulation. At the Ignatian Solidarity Network Service on Saturday evening, Rev. Tom Smolich, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference, said, “If not me, then who? … If not now, then when?” This gathering of peacemakers at Fort Benning, Georgia, every year is a reminder that the movement for peace is alive.

Betsy Hoover, Kim Szeto, Jessica Bridges, and Katie Van Loo are 2006-2007 Sojourners Interns.

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