March 29- Day 29 of Lent

OPENING PRAYER:

Lord God, during this Lenten season, teach us to come before you in humility, lamenting the signs that your kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. Help us to acknowledge our finitude and failings, and guide us into a journey of remembering rightly, repenting honestly, and responding faithfully. We long for the coming of your mosaic kingdom in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and invite your Holy Spirit to lead us now.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY: MARCH 29, 2006

Argentina and Uruguay Abandon School of the Americas

On this date in 2006, Argentina and Uruguay joined Venezuela as Latin American countries that stopped sending soldiers to the controversial US Army School of the Americas, ending their ties with the U.S. military institution. In 2008, Bolivia also joined these countries by ceasing to send military or police officers to the school, and in 2012, Ecuador committed to withdrawing all troops, due to human rights violations.

Founded in 1946 and starting in 1961, the U.S. Army School of the Americas has acted for over 50 years as a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, and was given the task of teaching “anti-communist counterinsurgency training” to many Latin American countries during the height of the Cold War.  To accomplish these goals, the SOA trained over 64,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, psychological warfare, military intelligence, interrogation, and torture.

Many opponents of the SOA claim that since its inception, hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee status by School graduates, who have particularly targeted educators, union organizers, clergy, students, and others who work for the rights of the poor. For example, on the morning of November 16, 1989, Salvadoran soldiers trained by the SOA executed five Jesuit priests, who had been labeled “subversives” by the Salvadoran government for speaking out against the socioeconomic structure of Salvadoran society.

In 2001, the Department of Defense re-opened the US Army School of the Americas under the name “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation,” at Fort Benning, Georgia. This action came in response to increasing criticism against the school for training students who committed human rights abuses and participated in undemocratic governments and dictatorships. WHINSEC’s stated purpose is to “provide professional education and training to eligible personnel of nations of the Western Hemisphere within the context of the democratic principles set forth in the Charter of the Organization of American States.” The Pentagon claims that the human rights abuses are a thing of the past. Yet opponents, such as the School of Americas Watch argue that without significant changes to faculty, curriculum, and culture, the school has not really changed. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders included in their election platforms for 2016 the goal of closing the School.

The projected budget for the U.S. military in 2017 is $523.9 billion, and Donald Trump recently proposed a $54 billion increase in defense spending. According to Politico Magazine, the U.S. had an estimated 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad while Britain, France, and Russia, by contrast, had about 30 foreign bases combined.

SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: PSALM 33:16-19

“No king is saved by the size of his army;
    no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
    despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
    on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death
    and keep them alive in famine.

RESPONSE OF LAMENT AND CONFESSION: Please spend some time in personal response, crying out to God with prayers, poems, songs, or art that expresses your lament and confession. If you feel led, please share these responses with others, using #lentenlament #day29

You may close with the following:

Lord have mercy, 
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

CLOSING PRAYER: Prayer of Remembrance for the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador (Education for Justice, 2014)

“God, Creator of life and human dignity, we celebrate the witness of your martyrs for faith, for peace, and for justice. Have mercy on the souls of these departed ones and grant them peace. May the memory of the Jesuits who died in El Salvador in 1989 help us move to a deeper understanding of the demands of justice and guide us to speak your truth to those in power. Give us the courage to raise our voices for those who suffer oppression and violence. Grant us your joy as we work to bring your kingdom to this world.”

Amen.

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