This past weekend, my friend Gus was arrested in Georgia. Now before you worry too much, let me further explain that he was arrested after an act of civil disobedience as part of the annual protest against the School of the Americas (a.k.a. Western Hemiphere Institute for Security Cooperation), a notorious training school for some of the worst human rights abusers in Latin America.
Gus was one of 11 people who trespassed across the line into Fort Benning, where the School of the Americas is housed. Thousands of others marched outside the gates of Fort Benning in what was the 18th Annual Protest against the school and the US foreign policy it stands for.
In 2005 the story of the SOA came particularly close to home for me when eight members of the San Jose de Apartado Peace Community in Uraba, Colombia were killed while I was in the country with Christian Peacemaker Teams. According to witnesses, the assasins were members of the Colombian military’s 17th Brigade, commanded by an SOA graduate. Ironically, Luis Eduardo Guerra, one of the leaders who was killed, spoke at the November 2002 vigil outside the gates of the School of the Americas.
It was the first time Gus had attended the vigil, but not the first time he had risked arrested. This year he was arrested twice while occupying Senator Durban’s office to encourage him to end the occupation of Iraq. But Gus isn’t your average peace activist type. He does janitorial work for the building where I live, working alongside my wife to sweep the floors and the was the windows here. He does not often talk about his convictions unless pushed.
Gus does not feel the compulsion to work every intellectual angle of his stance worked out before acting. Instead, he simply prayed and asked God whether or not he should cross the line. He heard God telling him to "Do it!". And so he did. "I am called to be obedient to the one that I have confessed as Lord. His command is to love my enemies as well as my neighbors." Gus said to me, "Crossing the line was my attempt to do just that."
After Gus was arrested, he was processed by the military police on the base. He told me, the experience reminded him that these people were not his enemies. "The soldiers were very friendly and cordial, if slightly bored," he said. "These were just a bunch of people doing what they were told to do." Gus was reminded of Ephesians 6:12 which tells us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers and principalities.
Last year activists who crossed the line recieved jail terms of between one and six months. Gus told me he is ready to face the consequences of his actions, but it may not be easy if he has to decide how to pay rent for his apartment for six months without any income. Please pray for Gus as he goes to trial in Georgia at the end of January and figures out how to deal with what comes next.
Note: This piece was moved to Young Anabaptist Radicals from my old blog for The Mennonite on February 24, 2015.