One activity of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas is annual protests outside the School of the Americas.
The School of the Americas (SOA)—renamed in 2001 the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation” (WHINSEC), and commonly called the School of Assassins—is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia. For over sixty years the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Among those targeted by SOA graduates have been educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, (including the 4 US Churchwoman assassinated/martyred in El Salvador) and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into exile.
The Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Associates, Mercy Corp Volunteers, and students along with thousands of others in the faith community and peace organizations have joined the annual protest at the SOA in front of Fort Benning, in Georgia. The sisters and associates wish to raise awareness among the people of the United States about the actions of the SOA graduates, and to help Americans understand that their tax dollars are paying for this training school. In the early 1980s, the Brooklyn Sisters of Mercy, who had sisters serving in Panama, stood in steadfast witness protesting the SOA at the Gate of Fort Gulick, the military compound previously housing the School of the Americas in Panama. When the SOA moved to the United States, Mercy presence witnessing with other faith and justice organizations at the Gate in Fort Benning began with a Baltimore Sister of Mercy, Sister Alice Lovett in the mid‐1980s.
Beyond their annual vigil, the Sisters of Mercy have worked with the Leadership Conference for Women Religious and their call for the closing of SOA in 1994. In 2002, Sister Moria Kenny, who felt called to protest at the SOA to honor the memory of the four US Churchwomen in El Salvador who were raped and murdered by graduates of the SOA, was arrested and later detained in prison for 6 months.
The Sisters of Mercy continue to this day at their protests of the SOA, annually encouraging students, Mercy associates, and other colleagues to join with them. In October 2016, the vigil will move to the Mexico- American Border from the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia to the militarized US/Mexico border. The Border Convergence, will be held from October 7-10, 2016 in Nogales, Arizona/ Sonora. The change of the location goes along with the broadening of the issue and the expanded fight against U.S. militarization at home and abroad.
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