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Peace activist to speak at KIPCOR, other area locations

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College Students for Social Change and the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution are among the co-sponsors of the visit of a well-known Christian peace activist to the Newton-Wichita area.

Father Roy Bourgeois will speak Monday, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m. at Kaufman House, the KIPCOR office, located at 2515 College Ave. in North Newton.

Father Roy is best known as the founder, in 1990, of SOA Watch in Columbus, Ga., just outside Fort Benning, which houses the former School of the Americas. Now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), it trains hundreds of Latin American soldiers annually in combat skills.

The nonprofit SOA Watch works to keep the general public, Congress and the media informed about the implications of this training for the people of Latin America. Every Thanksgiving, SOA Watch organizes and leads a large protest action outside the gates of Fort Benning, including civil disobedience through illegal entry.

Father Roy travels extensively, giving talks to college and university, church and other groups around the country. The topic for his evening appearance at KIPCOR will be SOA Watch and the Thanksgiving demonstration. Five Bethel students participated in the action last Thanksgiving.

The public is invited to join the conversation with Father Roy. Refreshments will be served.

There will be several other chances to hear and talk with Father Roy, including breakfast Monday, Aug. 29, at 8 a.m. at Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church (655 S. Lorraine) and Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 8 a.m. at the Peace and Social Justice Center (1407 N. Topeka), both in Wichita.

Father Roy will also speak in Hesston College’s chapel Monday, Aug. 29, at 11 a.m. in Hesston Mennonite Church.

His first appearance in the area will be Sunday, Aug. 28, at 6 p.m. at First Metropolitan Community Church, 156 S. Kansas in Wichita. This will touch on another area in which Father Roy has been active more recently, with the showing of Pink Smoke over the Vatican, a film by Jules Hart chronicling the controversial movement of women seeking ordination as priests in the Roman Catholic church.

In June 2008, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a sweeping order of excommunication for “the crime of attempting sacred ordination of a woman.” Pink Smoke over the Vatican follows the events that led up to this, and tells the stories of some of the women and men following the forbidden path of female ordination.

One of the men is Father Roy Bourgeois, now being threatened with excommunication by his order, Maryknoll, for publicly advocating the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic church.

Roy Bourgeois was born and raised in the small town of Lutcher, La. After graduating from the University of Southwestern Louisiana, Bourgeois enlisted in the Navy and served four years as a naval officer. He received the Purple Heart after being wounded in a bombing raid that killed several of his friends.

After discharge from the Navy, Bourgeois entered the seminary of the Maryknoll Missionary order. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1972. He spent five years working with the poor in Bolivia before being arrested and forced to leave the country, then under the repressive rule of dictator (and SOA graduate) General Hugo Banzer.

In 1980, after four American churchwomen – two of them Father Roy’s friends – were raped and killed in El Salvador by Salvadoran soldiers, Father Roy became an outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. Since 1980, he has spent nearly four years total in U.S. federal prisons for nonviolent protests against the training of Latin American soldiers at SOA/WHINSEC.

In addition to General Banzer, SOA’s roster of graduates includes former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega (now serving 40 years in a U.S. prison) and Roberto d’Aubuisson, leader of El Salvador’s infamous death squads in the 1980s.

Father Roy has worked on and helped produce several documentary films, including Gods of Metal (1983), about the nuclear arms race, and School of Assassins (1995), both nominated for Academy Awards. A 1997 documentary, Father Roy: Inside the School of the Assassins, profiles him and describes his meetings with three SOA/WHINSEC graduates who learned torture techniques there.

Father Roy received the 1997 Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Award and the 2005 Thomas Merton Award.

All area events featuring Father Roy Bourgeois are free and open to the public, with donations to SOA Watch gladly accepted. Co-sponsors of his appearance, along with Bethel College Students for Social Change and KIPCOR, are SOA Watch of Wichita and the Peace and Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas.

For general questions about Father Roy’s visit, call the Peace and Social Justice Center, 316-263-5886. For more information about his appearance on the Bethel campus, call KIPCOR at 316-284-5217.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2011-12 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is in the first tier in its category in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of “America’s Top Colleges” for 2011. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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