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Home About Us Prisoners of Conscience Court Statements Marie Salupo
Marie Salupo PDF Print E-mail

This courtroom may be small, but it is filled with the spirits of tens of thousands of peacemakers. These include people like Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan, two churchwomen from my hometown, Cleveland, OH, and Maryknoll Sisters, Ita Ford and Maura Clarke. All four of these women were murdered by School of the Americas graduates in El Salvador in 1980. But often we focus too much on the way these peacemakers died. I am here to honor the way they lived and to follow in their footsteps as women who loved life and lived the Gospel to its fullest.

Present in spirit in this courtroom is my friend, Remigio, from Huehuetenango, Guatemala where his people witnessed so much violence, particularly from military and paramilitary forces during 36 years of civil war. He now lives in Ohio working to make a better life for his family in Guatemala. His sacrifice is one of distance from those he loves so that his sisters and children can continue their education and his family can live without worrying where their meals will come from each day. And I stand here today in honor of Jose Rusbell Lara, a peacemaker and human rights worker from Tame, Colombia, a single father who worked for peace, dignity, and respect for life within his community in the midst persecution. In November he gave his own life in this quest for peace. His spirit lives on.

I come here with open arms in the same way that I crossed the fence last November. I come willing to except whatever the consequences of my actions may be.

I take full responsibility for my actions. Yet, I also plea not guilty. I echo many of the sentiments conveyed so eloquently by co-defendant, Jesse Carr. And I believe that were international law and necessity defense allowed in this courtroom perhaps the outcome of these trials would be dramatically different.

Should you find me guilty of a criminal act, let me also be guilty of love and of seeking justice. And should my actions be such a threat to the United States government and to you, Judge Faircloth, then sentence me to the maximum penalty under law. But know that prison walls cannot quench the spirit of love and justice within me.

As a catholic and lay missioner I am called to be a light in the dark corners of violence and injustice. I have a moral obligation to follow my conscience and act in the name of peace and justice. I believe that if we follow this Holy Spirit within us then we have nothing to fear.

When I stood before you in November, I mentioned that I had expected to be in Zimbabwe in January beginning my working with Maryknoll. However, mission everywhere and God works in ways beyond our understanding. So here I am today.

Make no mistake, I do not rejoice in the thought of a prison sentence. I rejoice in the way that God will use me, helping me grow in compassion and understanding wherever I may be.

As a Maryknoll lay missioner, one of our Core Values is to live in solidarity with the poor. Those within prison are some of the most marginalized in our society. While I was in the Muscogee County Jail I had the privilege of spending time with about 25 other women in general population. One said to me, ?With freedom comes great responsibility.? She said she had to imprison herself in order to be free. ?Remember my name,? she urged, ?Pat Tarkington.? I will never forget it.

She believed that 70% of the women in our cellblock were there on drug charges. She was addicted to crack and had turned herself in because she could not be accepted into a government-sponsored drug rehabilitation program unless she went to prison first. There were simply not enough spaces in these programs for people who wanted assistance for their addiction without serving time. Pat said, ?It took my a long time to realize that I was not a bad person, that this was a disease. People who use drugs need help to overcome their addiction, they do not need to be locked behind bars.?

As I listened to Pat?s story, her words brought me back to those labor unionists, community organizers, families, human rights workers, and leaders I?d met in Colombia whose lives are under constant attack by various armed actor groups, by U.S. military aid that fuels the flames of war, and by U.S. sponsored aerial fumigation that destroys legitimate crops and civilian health. All the while, coca production in Colombia and cocaine use in the States have only increased under this failed ?War on Drugs?. When will we learn that training of foreign militaries, the fumigating of massive areas of land, and the imprisonment of people suffering from addictions does not bring about justice or healing?

I wish to leave you will a quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, just a little ways from Zimbabwe, where I hope to be someday soon. I hope you will consider this message in your sentencing.

?One might say that perhaps justice fails to be done only if the concept we entertain of justice is retributive justice, whose chief goal is to be punitive, so that the wronged party is really the state, something impersonal, which has little consideration for the real victims and almost none for the perpetrator.

We contend that there is another kind of justice, restorative justice, which was characteristic of traditional African jurisprudence. Here the central concern is not retribution or punishment. In the spirit of ubuntu, the central concern is the healing of breaches, the redressing of imbalances, the restoration of broken relationships, a seeking to rehabilitate both the victim and the perpetrator.?

Thank you.

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