I think I have what is close to the final verision of my statement to the Judge and JAG lawyers. I guess there is always room to tinker but this is, I think the points I want to make.
Your Honor, JAG Lawyers, Mr. Prosecutor,
When I first began to compose my thoughts for today I was going to share with you my views and opinions of why WHINSEC should close. Then I figured you probably know the argument better than I do having listened to my friends year after year. So I just want to share with you a short story. I think it will illustrate the reason I crawled through the fence, mingled the earth of Honduras with the red clay of Georgia, and carried with me the cross of a young Honduran man, the brother of a friend of mine. His name was Jose Eduardo Lopez, and he is one of the Desaparecidos.
While preparing for final vows in the religious community I belonged to at the time, I asked to join one of our sisters who lived in a refugee camp called Mesa Grande. Situated on the border of Honduras and El Salvador, this camp housed hundreds of children, women and men who had fled the violence of civil war in their own country. Sir, I listened to their stories of how they were shot at in the dead of night as they tried to cross the river. Tearfully the woman recounted the scenes of how the bullets ripped through their children’s bodies as the helicopter gun ships sprayed machine gun fire from the air. Listening to their stories had consequences for me.
I played with the children everyday. Dressed as a clown, I played with puppets and kicked a homemade soccer ball around with them. Their huge smiles and even more huge eyes captured my heart and again bore consequences for me.
Sir, one of the reasons foreign nationals were there was because refugees were being taken at gun point from the camp. Since refugees can not leave the confines of the camp, they had no way to let the world know what was happening to them. Part of our job was to just be present and tell the outside world what was happening. The grief I witnessed when someone would turn up missing had consequences for me.
One day, I was walking from one camp, situated on a hillside to a second camp which was located on an opposite hill. Between the camps ran a long valley. As it had rained the night before, I was paying close attention to my feet so as not to slide down the muddy hillside. I remember how I cursed at the mud, the constant rain and my inferior sandals.
At one point I stopped to see where I was and how far I had to go. Sir, what I saw caused my heart to race. I had accidentally run into a group of armed mercenaries who were a few yards away. I couldn’t run because of the slippery mud and I couldn’t scream because nothing would come from my mouth. The clicking sound I heard as they readied their guns even today sends jolts of fear through my body. I remember the grim look on their brown, sun hardened faces, their muddy boots and their drab green uniforms and hats. At some point I closed my eyes hoping they would not rape me before they killed me. The terror that ran through me is difficult to describe. I thought I would be killed. I didn’t want to die and I had no way to defend myself. When I think of this today, sometimes I tremble inside seeing the images in my mind.
After a while, I opened my eyes and they were gone. My legs gave out and I sank to the ground covered with the mud I had tried so hard to avoid earlier. I can’t explain why they did not take me; maybe they were as surprised to see me as I was to see them. But those feelings of terror, which so many people experience when they face someone with a gun are still indelibly etched into my mind. Facing those soldiers and the guns had consequences for me then and still do today. I survived the terror and I can give it a voice. So many thousands of innocent men, women and children did not survive and their voice was silenced. My act of civil disobedience on November 19 is for me, simply a consequence of living with and loving people.
I would like to close with a quote from Reinhold Niebuhr. He says, "Nothing that is worth doing can be achieve in our lifetime;therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is trueor beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediatecontext of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone;therefore we must be saved by love."Thank you, Your Honor.