Dear Friends and Family: - September 9, 2002
Dear Friends and Family
Yesterday morning I concluded my interim pastorate at the Church of the Savior United
Church of Christ in Knoxville. It has been an incredibly wonderful journey with an
extraordinary community of faith committed to global compassion and justice. With
trembling and joy, we baptized a precious baby girl into the life and community of
Christ — into a life of loving everyone, resisting oppression, and denouncing evil. What
were we thinking of? It’s official: her worth has been declared and she has been claimed
to help create a new future. The teachings are clear do not kill, love your enemy, be
generous, walk humbly, and practice justice.
In the evening many of us gathered to keep vigil as we do each Sunday evening at the
gates of the Oak Ridge Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. A dear friend sung a song he had
written for the occasion, specifically recalling how my parents instructed me to love,
just like I love Libby and our children and grandchildren. What were my parents thinking
of when they carried me to baptism fifty-eight years ago? Did they know when they said I
was to live into goodness and to love truth (paraphrasing song) what that would entail?
But it’s official, then in 1944 and now: I am beloved and the world is my community to
love, including a little girl named Alva Rosa I cradled in my arms many years ago in
Nicaragua, a land and a people terrorized by SOA-trained soldiers.
It is our vocation to defend life. And what is at risk today is life, the life of our sisters and
brothers in Latin America and elsewhere in our world. It’s official: atrocities are
committed against our Latin American family by the graduates of the School of the
Americas (SOA)/renamed WHISC and concealed by lies and silence. We live in a society
where we allow such things to happen to them and others. The United States-sponsored
reign of terror, decade after decade, have consigned our Latin American friends to
suffering bereft of justice from the U.S., especially while the violence of our
government’s Plan Colombia, serviced by the SOA, escalates and serves deathmaking in
alarming proportions. The U.S. main strategy is official: (Viva la guerra! Long live war!
The readings from scriptures and the things I’ve learned from so many of you and my
co-defendants substantiate even more the action of loving, and leaves no room to get lost
in lies, abstractions, and horrors our government perpetuates through schemes like the
SOA, permanent war against terrorism, and diabolical plans to place weapons and nuclear
power in Space.
Tomorrow afternoon, September 10, after a morning send-off by supporters, a ride in a
caravan of supporters, and a picnic in a new territory, I will be “walking forward” (as .
another song nudges us) into the federal prison facility at Manchester, Kentucky for 6
months. It will be a sacred journey for me and I will make it willingly.
I will not be alone! Five of my co-defendants are already into their third month of
captivity and we are together. Their courageous witness inspires me.
I will not be alone! Twenty-two of my co-defendants are reporting tomorrow at their
assigned sites for 3 or 6 months and we are together in the thick of this truggle.
Their confident walk undergirds my own entrance..
I will not be alone! All those throughout Latin America who have been martyred for
being both voice and presence for truth will be going in with me. I humbly
hold them in my heart and remember their devotion for truth.
I will not be alone! My sisters and brothers from Latin America struggle for justice
and peace at great costs. Their immense hope arouses hope within me.
I will not be alone! I am blessed beyond belief with a loving wife, children crazily and
madly in love with me, and precious grandchildren who fill me with enormous joy
for being just who they are. Their unconditional love, unfailing support, and
personal sacrifices astonish and teach me.
I will not be alone! YOU will be going in with me! How I value your friendship.
You have been so persistent in your support (presence, letters, cards, calls,
counsel) to me and the others sentenced to prison for last November SOA action. Many
of you also extend life-giving support to people in prison now for risking their lives for
justice and peace in other actions of nonviolent civil resistance. You have been
unrelenting in your efforts to communicate your support and love for all of us. Gracias,
dear sisters and brothers!
While I am serving my time in prison I kindly ask you to do several things:
1. If you are not already doing it, consider supporting the SOAWatch in their
nonviolent efforts to close the School of the Americas and change U.S. policy
in Latin America. See web site for info:www.soaw.org.
2. Mobilize locally and join over 10,000 people in Columbus, Georgia on
November 15-17 to help close the School of the Americas. Knoxville
Area Committee on Central America/KACOCA in E. Tennessee has a large group
each year going on chartered bus/vans, with reservations for overnight stay in
Columbus motel. 865-426-9096 (Lissa or Ralph for info) or
865-983-5142 (Libby for info).
3. Write me and my co-prisoners of conscience; we would welcome the chance
to stay connected. Again, see web site for names and addresses (mine is
4. Remember Libby (address arid phone number below)
Let the joy and hope rip! May we be harnessed together in joy and hope that we can build
a new world even when the war drums vibrate the sounds of death in this post-911 era.
Erik Johnson #90971-20 Libby Johnson
FCI Manchester 108 E. Goddard Ave
P.O. Box 3000 Maryville, TN 37803
Manchester, KY 40962 (865)983-5142
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