NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Peace and human rights activist Father Roy Bourgeois returns to the Bethel College campus and will make several other appearances in the local area.
Father Roy will be in North Newton, Hesston, McPherson and Wichita. He will be at Bethel Feb. 23, as a guest in a class taught by Hamilton Williams, Bethel College associate professor of social work, at 9 a.m. The class will meet in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center and is open to anyone interested.
That evening, Father Roy will be at the offices of the Kansas Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR), 2515 College Avenue in North Newton, at 7 p.m.
The public is invited to join the conversation with Father Roy at KIPCOR.
In between, he speaks in Hesston College’s Monday chapel service at 11 a.m. in Hesston Mennonite Church.
Father Roy is perhaps best known as the founder, in 1990, of SOA Watch in Columbus, Georgia, 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.
“The status of the School of the Americas should certainly be under more scrutiny since Pope Francis declared [Feb. 3 that] Oscar Romero died a martyr, clearing the way for his beatification,” Williams noted. “It should open the way for criminal investigations into the U.S. role in the training of his killers as well.”
Salvadoran Bishop Oscar Romero spoke consistently from the pulpit against poverty and social injustice, and the assassinations and torture carried out by a repressive right-wing government during the 1970s, as El Salvador was falling into civil war. Romero was assassinated March 24, 1980, while serving mass, by men later found to have been trained at the School of the Americas.
Father Roy travels extensively, giving talks to college and university, church and other groups around the country. His overall topic for his visit to south-central Kansas is “Journey from Silence to Solidarity.”
He will share his perspective on the impact of economic and gender inequality in the Americas, and the bitter fruits from the failed “War on Drugs” and the training of foreign soldiers at the SOA/WHINSEC.
There will be several other chances to hear and talk with Father Roy, Feb. 22-25. Sunday, Feb. 22, he will be in Wichita, first at Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church (655 S. Lorraine) at 11:45 a.m., and that evening at Piccadilly Restaurant (7728 East Central) at 6 p.m. for a dinner in support of the Global Learning Center.
Ticket purchase ($14 per person) is required for the Piccadilly event – call 316-616-5538 to reserve.
All other events are free, though donations to support Father Roy’s ministry will be gratefully accepted.
Feb. 24, he will speak at McPherson College at 9 a.m. and at Pine Valley Christian Church, 5620 East 21st Street, Wichita, at 7 p.m.
Feb. 25, he will be a guest for a breakfast at the Peace Center, 1407 North Topeka in Wichita, at 8 a.m.
Sponsor for Father Roy’s visit is the Peace & Social Justice Center of Kansas. Contact the center for more information, 316-263-5886.
Roy Bourgeois was born and raised in the small town of Lutcher, Louisiana, graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana, 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. 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.