Michael David Omondi—a recent Goshen alum who was arrested for hopping the fence onto federal property at the WHINSEC (formerly called School of the Americas) vigil last fall—will be released from his six-month prison term on May 20.
Ross Weaver, a fifth-year senior, attended the WHINSEC vigil with Omondi near Columbus, Georgia, in November. Thousands of people gather outside this military base every year to protest this institute that has been known to train military figures charged with serious violations of human rights. Groups of students from Goshen have often attended the protest.
According to Weaver, Omondi, who was a PJCS major at Goshen, had been planning to cross the fence at the protest for months. Of the thousands of people just outside the compound, this year only Omondi and three other resisters chose to hop the barbed-wire fence, landing on WHINSEC property on the other side. Omondi sat in the grass praying for about 30 seconds before the police took him away.
Through this act of civil disobedience, “You’re not exactly stopping anything,” said Weaver. “But it’s one of the few acts of nonviolent action that one can take. It’s not for everybody, but I think that part of our witness as Christians for living out the gospel sometimes means getting arrested.”
Since his imprisonment, Omondi has written a series of letters to his friends and family explaining his choice to jump the fence. “My own decision to clamber over the barbed-wire fence,” he wrote, “came out of a belief that the SOA is one embodiment of systemic violence and injustice that reaches at least as far back into history as the near extermination of Native Americans and enslavement of millions of Africans at the start of Europe's great expansion.”
“It is well past time for a radical change,” he continued. “Radical change requires radical action rooted in a spirit of unconditional love. Rooted in the recognition that we are individually responsible for our collective well-being . . . it is these convictions that led me over that fence back in November. It was an action in honor of the thousands of victims of SOA/WHINSEC graduates, in solidarity with those who continue to suffer under the heel of imperial expansion, and those—past and present—who resist through life-affirming acts of personal sacrifice.”
In the last five months Omondi has been moved between five or six different prisons. His imprisonment has given him a chance to think and write, make friends with other inmates and get an inside perspective on the criminal justice system in this country. “In the last four months, I have known peace and freedom beyond anything I expected or imagined,” he wrote. “And I know that I am forever changed.”