Visiting the SOA protest for the first time in six years, I am struck by two things: the absence of the Jesuits priests and the feeling of an interfaith movement at the gates. Both updates mark noticeable shifts in the movement as it seeks to change US policy in LatinAmerica, especially in terms of US militarism. For me, as I grow in my faith and understanding of interfaith at Union, these two notes are particularly important.
The Jesuits have moved the bulk of their protests to Washington, DC. As the vote on closing the School of the Americas approaches a more-equal vote in our nation’s capital, it seems that the SOA Watch, the organization that sponsors the SOA protest has focused much of its energy on this important vote in DC. Indeed, this focus is a huge shift—from solidarity to effective, political engagement and action. Activism is re-envisioning itself. And, progress can be seen, including the withdrawing of numerous counties recently (Nicaragua in October 2012). However, the absence of the Jesuits at Ft. Benning has been particularly notable.
The other big update has been the growing interfaith movement at the SOA protest. In addition to an interfaith service, numerous symbols and signs from other (non-Christian) traditions can be spotted across the protest. This emphasis on peace and justice across faith boundaries is inspiring. Moreover, it reflects the broad religious landscape of the United States and a greater movement for peace. Now, more than ever, is it important to recognize our commonalities and to organize to recognize the inherent human rights of all peoples. It seems that the School of the America Protest and Watch is coming of age.