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Home About Us Prisoners of Conscience Court Statements Trial Statement - January 26, 2004
Trial Statement - January 26, 2004 PDF Print E-mail
I am a member of the Religious Society of Friends or a Quaker and unite with the Friends peace testimony.

I believe that there is that of God in every human being.

So every person is sacred.

So all war is wrong.

All killing is wrong.

Violence in all its forms is wrong.

In August, 1997 I traveled to Chiapas, MX with four other women ? three of them Quaker - and again in 2000 with Christian Peacemaker Teams, an initiative of the three historic peace churches, the Religious Society of Friends, the Mennonite Church and the Church of the Brethren.

I learned of the massacre of 45 women, children and men as they fasted and prayed for peace in Acteal, Chiapas on December 22, 1997. I learned of the close ties between the paramilitary responsible for the massacre and the Mexican army several of whom are graduates of the SOA.

Between 2000 and 2002 I lived in Guatemala for 19 months.

There, I learned of the US-backed military coup of the only democratically elected president Guatemala has ever known in 1954.

I learned of the 36 year civil war that followed.

And I learned of the ?scorched earth? campaign authored by SOA graduates, then President General Efrain Rios Montt and his top army general, Hector Gramajo from 1981 to 1984.

During the campaign, the Guatemalan army annihilated nearly 600 villages,

killed more than 200,000,

and disappeared more than 50,000.

5 million were either internally or externally displaced.

I saw photographs of children who had been lined up and shot.

I heard stories of parents forced to dig holes in the ground which were then used to bury their children.

I met women who 20 years later are still asking of the whereabouts of their disappeared children.

To disappear someone in Latin America means to kidnap and murder the victim. Often the victims? families never find out what happened to their loved ones.

Seven years after the signing of the peace accords, the oppression continues.

Human rights workers continue to be sent death threats and are assassinated.

University classrooms are planted with government spies, listening for voices of dissent.

General Montt and General Gramajo are just two examples in a long line of SOA/WHINSEC graduates who have committed human rights atrocities against the people of their home countries.

Any institution that does not purposefully and repeatedly call itself to openly examine its history and those of its graduates, and when that history reveals human rights atrocities, does not take action that seeks to end those atrocities and seek to provide retribution to the families of those who have been killed and tortured, must be closed.

The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation is such an institution.

My government teaches assassination and oppression. My tax dollars fund this ?teaching.?

I must take a stand and say, ?Not in my name.?

I must use my feet to make my voice heard.

For me, it is a spiritual leading.

In the spring of 2003 I requested I requested a clearness committee from my Quaker monthly meeting to discern if my leading to cross the line was a true leading, grounded in the Spirit [capital S].

I'd like to read from the committee's report:

?Friends found Shirley clear in her leading to take action at the School of the Americas protest this November and delight in the strength of her conviction to act against this injustice led and funded by our country. We wish her well and will await the report of the action taken.?

I also took my leading to Farmington Scipio Regional Meeting and to the clerk of New York Yearly Meeting, both larger bodies of Friends.

I'd like to read the letter from the clerk of New York Yearly Meeting, dated December 19, 2003:

?To Whom It May Concern:

Central Finger Lakes Friends Meeting and Farmington-Scipio Regional Meeting have faithfully observed the traditional practices of the Religious Society of Friends in their accompaniment and support of Friend Shirley Way as she discerned a leading to take action in November of 2003 to close the School of the Americas/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, Columbus, GA.

Shirley sought clarity under the nurture and care of a clearness committee comprising members of Central Finger Lakes and Poplar Ridge Friends Meetings. On October 22, 2002 committee members met with Shirley and found her clear in her leading to take action, and on November 2, 2003 Central Finger Lakes Friends Meeting approved a minute of support. On October 25, 2003 Farmington-Scipio Regional Meeting, as well, minuted its acknowledgement of Shirley's leading which bears witness to our historic peace testimony.?

In peace,
Linda B. Chidsey
Clerk, New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends?

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