Sonia Santiago dedicates her life to educating for peace

The Mothers Against War Fund raises more than two decades by addressing the effects of war conflicts.

Sonia Santiago fundó en el 2003 la organización Madres contra la guerra, una organización pacifista y antimilitarista enfocada en la defensa de los derechos humanos. (Wanda Liz Vega)February 19 2024 / Sandra Torres Guzmán / Primera Hora / Translated into English - Educating for peace was converted into a life mission by psychologist Sonia Margarita Santiago Hernández, who dedicated her time and effort to educating the people about the effects of war conflicts through the Madres anti-war organization.

It is the lesson she got from her parents who, from a young age, instilled in her a charitable feeling for the common causes that affect the well-being of the communities, a path that continued when she entered the university and then into her adulthood.

Born in Naranjito and resident in Dorado for more than three decades, Sonia Margarita recalls her humble origin when “my parents strengthened me within the Catholic Church with a profound feeling of Christian charity in praxis, meaning that it was not a question of going every Sunday to mass but what we did”.

“It was the experience of life, what it is to be Christian. For example, in activities to support people without a home or people who need our support in any way”, related the daughter of Ángel Santiago Aponte and Aurora Hernández Ortega.

Her entry into the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras in 1966 coincided with the Vietnam conflict (1955-1975), a cause that motivated her to join a committee "to resist mandatory military service."

The organization is born

However, she spoke up when she founded Madres contra la Guerra (Anti-War Mothers), a pacifist and anti-militarist organization focused on the defense of human rights that arose in 2003 through the military registration of one of her four children.

“Mothers Against the War was born because one of my boys got a student loan for studying and he didn't want me to stop helping his younger brothers for helping him. Then, a recruiter (of the army) told him that if he signed as a recruit, they would cancel the student loan debt”, recalled Santiago Hernández of 75 years.

“He said nothing to us and regretfully he entered with the forces of occupation of Iraq in the year 2003, with the first brigades. Then, from there,  he started writing to me that he was against what they were doing, that they led him to guard the oil wells and he said: 'This is for oil' and eventually he quit,” revealed the graduated woman of the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras.

Thus, Sonia transformed her indignation into actions of peace, "raising a pacifist message to Mothers Against the War to prevent other families from going through this crisis of having a son in the military  and additionally, addressing the youth so that they will not enlist."

The organization, made up of 200 families, does its best to be available to veterans through legal and physical mechanisms, among other free services to this community.

“One of the most serious problems affecting veterans as they return from the war as well as many of those who are being trained is neurological damage, which is the product of their brain movement inside the skull due to the impact of explosions,” said Sonia , who holds a master's degree in social psychology and a Ph.D.  in clinical psychology.

“They don't necessarily have had gone to war to suffer this neurological damage. My friend, we care about these injuries for the many who are training with explosive ordinance and upon returning from the active force deployments.  They have neurological damage, a big problem” she stated.

The fact is, “30% of those who come (from the war) have post-traumatic stress syndrome while a smaller percentage suffer from psychotic disorders”.

We make appeals to military officials for soldiers to be recognized as conscientious objectors. We offer support, education, we go to high schools, we go to universities, of course, by invitation,” she mentioned, noting that “we are a non-profit organization registered with the Department of State of Puerto Rico.”

Likewise, the pacifist leader urged families to educate for peace in their home.

“With a proliferation of street crimes in our communities, many of our young people do not need to go to a war zone or the Army to confront violence. They are being killed in the streets,” she lamented.

“We must educate for peace, working on skills and tools so that people learn that instead of mistreating someone with violence, we must work to learn to control our emotions and not allow anger to motivate our actions and resort to violence to resolve a conflict. Wrath brings nothing,” she concluded.

For details, you can access http://madrescontralaguerra.blogspot.com  or through YouTube and X.

Note: Sonia Hernandez serves as a steering committee member for The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth


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 Revised: 04/12/2024 GDG

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