Left Justified: Nuns in Jail

Left Justified: Nuns in Jail

By Stanley Campbell

“Nuns in Jail”—doesn’t that sound like a dirty movie? But it’s true. The federal government is throwing Roman Catholic sisters into federal prison because they walk onto Ft. Benning, an Army base in Georgia. Well, they walk on base while carrying signs against murdering Latin American peasants.

The nun whom I know, Sister Kathleen Desautels, is serving time in the federal prison in Greenville, Illinois. She’s from Chicago.

I met her on a trip to Colombia. We were delivering a ruling by an American judge that a small village near Arauca (which is near oil-rich Venezuela) was attacked by the Colombian air force while using American-made weapons. The good sister and I visited the area, met with surviving women and children and memorialized the 27 who were buried. We also protested to the American embassy (a lot of good that did).

Sister Kathleen was arrested while she was carrying a symbolic coffin through the gate of Fort Benning. She wanted to protest a training school established there for Latin American soldiers. It used to be called the School of the Americas (SOA). The name was changed to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, but it’s still the same blood-drenched, torture-teaching university it always was.

The protesters made it about 200 yards onto the base before military police arrested Sister Kathleen and almost 2,000 others. (There were close to 10,000 at the gate rooting them on.) She was detained along with 43 activists while most of the 2,000 were processed and released. This last July, a federal judge sentenced 37 of the detainees to federal prison. Sister Kathleen got six months. “What we’re going through in prison is really nothing compared to the suffering that people in Latin America have gone through,” said my favorite nun.

Of course, Sister Kathleen will try to close the Army school again when she is released. I asked her to stop in to Rockford on her way home. If you want to send her a Thanksgiving card, here’s her address:

Kathleen Desautels, 90996-020,

Federal Prison Camp-Greenville,

P.O. Box 6000

Greenville, IL 62246

Tell her Stanley sent you.

In Coffee Talk news: the Sierra Club hosts a candidates’ forum this Monday, October 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner Street. Let’s see who turns out to talk green to the environmentalists. We’ll also get the Illinois Sierra Club honcho to cover the latest statewide issues.

The Saturday, October 26, 1 p.m. peace rally at the Puri Peace Plaza off Perryville (say that real fast) has attracted some local speakers and songsters. This will be a regional gathering of a very major national demonstration in our nation’s capitol. Some folks predict that the Washington, D.C. march could be the largest anti-war demonstration since the Vietnam War. And the body bags haven’t yet begun to arrive.

Invited speaker (and my personal heroine) Kathy Kelly will not be speaking because she took a flight to Iraq. Imagine that! We’ll just have to go ahead and hold the peace rally while our speaker is putting herself in harm’s way. Pray for peace, work for justice.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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