Martin Sheen on WHY we protest: “Because our Creator asks us to protest
For the sake of the nation, for our sake and for the sake of others”
Martin Sheen leads massive nonviolent protest at Ft. Benning, Georgia
On November 22, 1998, Martin Sheen, another Christian activist shaped by Gandhi’s “soul force” led a march of 2,000 protesters to the locked gates of the Ft. Benning military base near Columbus, Georgia. We were there to protest the “School of the Americas,” a U.S. Army training center at Ft. Benning for soldiers and policemen from Central and South America who use terror, torture, and death to keep corrupt Latin American regimes in power.
Sheen spoke briefly to the rows of military police blocking our way. “Basic human rights,” Sheen began, “are not given by the hand of any state but flow abundantly from the hand of our loving Creator….I’m here to do what is asked by a loving God…”
Sheen echoes our Declaration of Independence: “…that all are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” American colonists risked their lives to win those rights from British tyranny. Millions of Americans have died protecting those rights from tyrants through the centuries. Now right wing tyrants are threatening those rights again. God’s will is freedom and justice for all. God’s will for us is to join in the struggle to protect those rights for everyone.
Sheen ended his speech with these words: “I come here in nonviolence not only to help end the suffering of our sisters and brothers in Central and South America but to win my own freedom as well.” Sheen reminds us that we protest for the good of others but we also protest for our own good. Even if Martin didn’t accomplish his goal to close the School of the America he knew that his own life would be empowered and renewed just be trying.
Dr. King writes:
“The nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resource of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally, it reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality.”xxii