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Springfield Dominicans join the SOA protest that included 22,000 people from across the USA.
Novices from the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate attended the
Vigil. Co-Director, Katie McGrail, OP, Roselli Tria, Elise Garcia,
Sara Bingham, Thanh Nguyen, and Rose Ahaneku.

“Presente!” Dominicans from Across the US Gather to Protest the School of the Americas

FT. BENNING, GA November 17, 2006-- A woman’s voice pierced the silence of a chilly Sunday morning in late November, chanting plaintively, “María Isabel Amaya Claros, a child of eight months.”

In response, a crowd of some 22,000 people, processing in silence, raised the white crosses they carried and chanted back, “Presente!” It was the 16th vigil held to protest the notorious School of the Americas - SOA, now known as WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), located at Fort Benning, Georgia. The names of hundreds of victims of assassinations and massacres in Latin America, committed by military or paramilitary troops led by graduates of the SOA were chanted – with a sea of white crosses rising up in response. The procession led to the gates of Fort Benning, where the crosses, each bearing the name of a victim, were woven into the fence.

According to SOA Watch, the organization that sponsors the yearly Vigil, the demonstration – at times lively and at others solemn – was the largest yet in a 17-year history of opposition to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly called the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC), a combat-training school for Latin American soldiers.

Among the thousands of protesters were Dominicans from various congregations including Adrian, Grand Rapids, Great Bend, Houston, Mission San Jose, San Rafael, Sinsinawa and Springfield among others. Five of the six Dominican novices from the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate in St. Louis also participated, along with one of their co-directors.

It was the ninth year for Durstyne Farnan, OP, (Adrian) Co-Promoter for the North American Dominican Justice Promoters. “I keep coming because I want to introduce young people to a movement where they can feel that they are not alone in their work for peace and justice,” Sister Dusty said. “It’s an intergeneration, multi-cultural, and interfaith gathering and it’s heartening to see so many taking up the cause.”

Young people from Dominican sponsored high schools and universities joined sisters at the vigil. Adam Deline, a sophomore at Siena Heights University, an Adrian Dominican institution, attended last year’s vigil and thought it was important to return. “If I’m really going to live my faith I feel that I need to be here,” Adam further explained, “I like seeing the solidarity that is so present at this event. People from 2 to 80, all races, all walks of life - all here to say we won’t stand for the injustice that our country is promoting.”

“It is amazing to see so many people united around one cause…it makes me understand the importance of speaking out,” exclaimed Lizzy Acosta, a Senior at Flint Ridge Sacred Heart Academy in Los Angeles, a Mission San Jose school.

Gabrielle Landeros, a Junior at the San Gabriel Mission School in San Gabriel California, was a part of the Mission San Jose group. She said, “I want to do this (to beat the SOA Rally) to help make a change. The stories I’ve heard this weekend are touching – I believe we all have to do our part to work for peace and justice.”

Sister Patti Bruno, OP (San Rafael), said that the SOA event reminded her about the importance of telling our stories, “Being with the young people is energizing…there are so many stories that we take for granted – we have information and experiences that we have to pass to the next generation. This is an opportunity to gather and encourage one another to work for justice as we pass the torch from one generation to the next.”

story by: Sister Elise Garcia and Sister Sara Bingham
(Photos courtesy Sister Roselli Tria)
The authors and photographer are currently novices at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate, St. Louis, MO

You Too Can be a Tidal Wave:
SOA in the First Person

by Christopher Mathias
Read a first person account of the 2006 SOA march from Chris Mathias, who ministers with the Adrian Dominican Sisters in the Office of Global Mission Justice and Peace. READ MORE

More Photos

Full coverage visit

Gabriella Landeros and Lizzy Acosta are pictured with students from a number of Mission San Jose high schools.
Crosses covering the fence give witness to the dead.
Dominican Volunteers participated in the march.

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