Ordained a Maryknoll Priest, Military veteran, Human Rights Activist (1938 - )
Just down the road here is a school, the School of the Americas. It's a combat school. Most of the courses revolve around what they call counter insurgency warfare. Who are the insurgents? We have to ask that question. They are the poor. They are the people in Latin America who call for reform. They are the landless peasants who are hungry. They are health care workers, human rights advocates, labor organizers, they become the insurgents, they're seen as El Enimigo, the Enemy. And they are those who become the targets of those who learn their lessons at the School of the Americas.
Additional Quotes by Roy Bourgeois
In Latin America, anyone who works with the poor and oppressed is an insurgent, a communist. If I were doing the same thing in China, they wouldn't call me a communist.
Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard or how long we may try to justify discrimination, in the end, it is always immoral.
Working and struggling for peace and justice are an integral part of our faith. For this reason, I speak out against the war in Iraq. And for the last eighteen years, I have been speaking out against the atrocities and suffering caused by the School of the Americas (SOA).
The words in the main quote are by Catholic Priest, Father Roy Bourgeois, dissident founder of the School of America Watch (SOAW), uses to describe what is now called the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation. He works to reveal the truth about the programs taught here and to close what is more commonly called the School of Assassins. This school has reportedly trained more than 70,000 military and police officers from Latin America and the United States since 1946. Torture, executions, and other forms of coercion are the lessons taught here at the school “just down the road” at Fort Benning outside Columbus, Georgia.
In 1938, when Roy Bourgeois was born in Cajun country in Lutcher, Louisiana, there was nothing extraordinary that would indicate he would become a Naval Officer honored with a Purple Heart and, later, a Maryknoll Missionary Priest who was awarded the Pax Christi Award for Teacher of Peace in 1997. He grew up in a conservative working class family where public school was the norm and high school sports were highlights for all the community. He went to a state university, played football, and graduated with a degree in geology, hoping to make his fortune in the oil fields.
Honor and duty to God and country were ingrained from an early age and Roy joined the Navy, serving as an officer for two years before he volunteered to go to Vietnam in 1965. Vietnam was his turning point. He watched bombs exploding, fires raging, and napalm burning; all the while discovering the wonderfully rich culture and people of Vietnam. Along with other soldiers, he started to spend weekends at a Catholic orphanage where he saw the magnitude of the people’s suffering. He began to spend as much time there as possible soliciting donations for the children. It was here he decided he was not made for the military.
Roy returned home to a hero’s welcome complete with a Purple Heart as a result of a battle in Saigon. However, he had already decided he wanted to give peacemaking a chance. In 1968 he began studies as a Maryknoll Missionary and in the four years before his ordination as a Catholic priest, Roy spent the first of what was to become a collective four year’s worth of nights in jail. He was fast becoming a peace activist as he and other Vietnam Veterans protested the war in Vietnam, especially the My Lai Massacre. The newly ordained Father Bourgeois was sent to Bolivia where he worked among the poor for five years before he was banished from the country for helping to form base communities and literacy programs and for speaking out against human rights violations.
In 1980 Father Bourgeois moved to a Catholic Worker house in Chicago where he continued his work with the poor and his commitment to non-violence. However, he quickly became involved again in Latin American events as four Catholic nuns, two of whom were friends, were raped and killed in El Salvador. There was also the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and, then, the massacre of six Jesuit priests along with their housekeeper and her daughter in 1989. He became an outspoken critic of US Latin American policy and discovered links to the School of the Americas. After seeing Latin American soldiers being trained at Fort Benning and learning that numerous leaders and killers in the Latin American atrocities had been trained at the school, he decided the violence must stop. This is when he rented an apartment, Casa Romero, near the entrance to the school and founded the School of the Americas Watch whose purpose was shutting down the school. In November of 1990, the first anniversary of the Jesuit massacre, the first public protest took place and Father Bourgeois was arrested and sentenced to jail. The protest grows in numbers each year and will continue until the school is closed.
Father Roy Bourgeois continues to work for peace as he travels the country and speaks in schools, churches, and community groups. His message is one of non-violence and he has recently drawn the connection between non-violence and the equality of women. He participated in a woman’s ordination ceremony in Lexington, Kentucky and was investigated and then excommunicated from the church for refusing to denounce the ordination of women in the Catholic Church. At the ordination Father Bourgeois stated, “No matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination, in the end it is always wrong and immoral.” He believes with all the great peacemakers that “the truth cannot be silenced. It simply cannot be silenced.”