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Priest to speak on School of the Americas, women’s ordination

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN – A well-known peace activist returns to south central Kansas this week, with two public appearances on the Bethel College campus.

Wednesday, Sept. 26, Father Roy Bourgeois will speak at Kaufman House, the offices of the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR), 2515 College Avenue in North Newton, at 7 p.m. He will return Friday, Sept. 28, for Bethel’s convocation at 11 a.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium.

Both events are free and open to the public.

Father Roy will also speak in Hesston College chapel Wednesday, Sept. 26, 11 a.m. in Hesston Mennonite Church, and meet with McPherson College students later that day, and will be part of several public gatherings Thursday and Friday in the Wichita area, sponsored by the Peace and Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas (call 316-263-5886 for more information).

Father Roy is best known as the founder, in 1990, of SOA (School of the Americas) 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.

A number of Bethel students participated in SOA Watch’s Thanksgiving action in November 2011. This year’s action will be Nov. 16-18.

Father Roy travels extensively, giving talks to college, church and other groups around the country. In addition to working with SOA Watch, he has been involved in recent years with advocating for the ordination of women priests within the Roman Catholic Church.

Since participating in an ordination ceremony for a woman, Father Roy has been in extended, still ongoing, negotiations with Maryknoll leadership and the Vatican about his membership in Maryknoll.

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

After discharge from the Navy, Bourgeois entered the seminary of the Maryknoll Missionary order and 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.

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 at Bethel College are Students for Social Change and KIPCOR. For more information about Father Roy’s appearance on the Bethel campus, call KIPCOR at 316-284-5217.

You can learn more about SOA Watch at www.soaw.org/. Father Roy has authored a new booklet, “My Journey from Silence to Solidarity,” downloadable in PDF format from at www.roybourgeoisjourney.org/.

Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the 2012-13 Forbes.com analysis of premier colleges and universities in the United States and ranks in the top five “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2012-13. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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