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PRESENTE! – An Advent Reflection

December 3, 2013

 The following blog was written by Megan Graves, a senior at Dominican University. Thank you for your reflection, Megan!

Isaiah 11:1-10 

In the first reading of today, the Prophet Isaiah preaches about the “wolf lying down with the lamb.” That exact phrase was mentioned within a story that a Sinsinawa Dominican Sister shared with a group of Dominican Students at the School of the Americas protest a few weeks ago in Fort Benning, Georgia.

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Five students from the DU Amnesty International Chapter, including myself packed into one small car and drove 13 hours down to Georgia to attend the annual School of the Americas Protest and Vigil. What is the School of the Americas you may ask? Well the School of the Americas, also known as the SOA is is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia. According to the SOA Watch organization that leads this protest and vigil, “Since 1946, the SOA has trained over 64,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor.” Oscar Romero,  the Archbishop  of El Salvador, Dorothy Stang, and Ita Ford are among millions of other who have been killed by this group. As you can see our group wanted to act local but think globally, as many of us were taught that model within our Social Justice classes with Professor MaDonna Thelen, Director of the Community Based Learning Department.

As we headed down to Georgia, we first stopped in Atlanta and were welcomed into the community of a small group of Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters.  These Sisters have lived in Georgia for many years and have dedicated their lives to peace and non-violence.  Even as we were all weary upon our arrival, we shared a late evening meal and were lead by the Sisters in a non-violence prayer reflection. One of the quotes used within our reflection circle was from the Pastoral Letter to the US Catholic Black Bishops- What We have Seen and Heard, in which they stated, “Our own history has taught us that preaching to the poor and to those who suffer injustice without concern for their plight and the systematic cause of their plight is to trivialize the Gospel and mock the cross.” This quote from their letter stuck with me, and it relates back to first reading for today, as we must continue to speak out against injustice and question the systems of oppression that plague our world, but this must be done on both sides of the oppressed and the oppressor. The wolf must lie down and work with the lamb and vice versa, that is how a healing process can being. However, this is easier said than done.

As we arrived at the gates of Fort Benning and we heard testimonies of survivors who were tortured by students of the school  and of family members whose loved ones were either killed on declared missing by the school, there were moment when I was angry and wanted to combat their violence with violence. It was during that time that we also heard the story of one of our Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, Sr. Kathy Long and how she actually crossed over the gate of the base years ago and was arrested in placed in prison. During that time, she told us that many of those who were arrested were fed by the some of the police and military officials who were apart of the school. For her, she saw this a “wolf lying down with the lamb” moment, because she say that everyone was sharing and breaking bread together.

The morning of the actual Vigil, all of the names of people who were either killed or declared missing by this school were named, and we responded by raising crosses with names of the people in the air and signing, PRESENTE! This meant that no matter how long this school is to continue their reign of pain and suffering, the people will never be forgotten.

This was my second time attending this protest and vigil, but I hope that I will not have to return, because I am hopeful that the wolves will lie down with the lambs and peace will flourish.

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