Visiting activist promotes peace

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    The founder of an organization dedicated to shutting down an American military school that trains Latin American soldiers visited campus Thursday to speak about his experiences.

    The Rev. Roy Bourgeois, who founded the School of the Americas Watch, had breakfast with students, visited classrooms and gave an evening lecture, saying America needs to change its foreign policies in Latin America and shut down the School of the Americas because it teaches soldiers violent military tactics.

    “Our struggle is connected to their struggle,” Bourgeois told the Introduction to Political Theory .class. “This school has become an obstacle to justice.”

    After fighting in Vietnam for a year, Bourgeois became an ordained Catholic priest in the Maryknowll Order and began missionary work in Bolivia. Throughout his peace work, Bourgeois said he saw the injustices laid upon Latin Americans because of U.S. intervention. As a result of his work, Bourgeois said he has spent a total of four years in and out of prison.

    “When they sent us to prison, they could not silence us,” he said.

    According to its Web site, the mission of the School of the Americas, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2001, is to teach liberty, peace and brotherhood to Latin Americans.

    Bourgeois founded SOAW in 1990 and said the U.S. misleads the public about the school. Every November, Bourgeois and members gather at the school in Fort Benning, Ga., to call for its closing.

    “Let me just say we’re there trying to connect to the people of Latin America,” he said. “Our movement is rooted in non-violence.”

    He told students that by being in a university they were on their way to fixing the problems of the future.

    “Our enemy in this country is ignorance,” he said. “The way out is knowledge.”
    Bourgeois said he sustains his hope for change by speaking around the country informing Americans about SOAW and American foreign policy in Latin America.

    “Students have become the backbone of our movement,” he said.

    Casey Abney, a senior art major, said she has always been aware of the need for justice in the world and Bourgeois’ lecture reinforced her belief.

    “It made me want to get more involved and understand the issues more,” she said.
    In his classroom visits, Bourgeois also discussed his opposition to the war in Iraq and the continuing U.S. presence there. He showed students a photograph of a civilian boy who lost his arm and his sight from an American bombing.

    Shane Lynch, a junior political science major, said Bourgeois’s lecture made him think about U.S. involvement in Iraq.