U.S. Priest Awarded Prestigious German Peace Prize Print
Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch), was awarded the esteemed Aachen Peace Prize in Aachen, Germany today. Fr. Bourgeois accepted the award on behalf of his work to close the controversial U.S. Army?s School of the Americas.

Past recipients include U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, the Israeli organization Gush Shalom, Kazuo Soda, a survivor of the Nagasaki atomic bombing, and Peace Brigades International. This year Fr. Bourgeois shares the award with German actress Hanne Hiob, daughter of Bertolt Brechts and a longtime voice against war and fascism. Begun in 1988, the Aachen Peace Award Committee consists of 400 members under the umbrella of two Catholic organizations and includes local Catholic and Protestant church communities, the City of Aachen, and local civic organizations.

Fr. Bourgeois was chosen to receive the international award because he "?has been actively working on the grassroots level and under great personal sacrifice for peace and human rights for decades,? focused for the last 15 years on closing a school linked to human rights abuses.

The School of the Americas, now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/ WHINSEC), is a military training school located at Fort Benning, Georgia where over 60,000 Latin American security personnel have been taught in courses including counterinsurgency, sniper training, psychological warfare and interrogation techniques. Graduates of the school have been consistently linked to human rights violations and to the suppression of popular movements in Central and South America.

SOA Watch, a national grassroots organization that works to close the SOA/ WHINSEC and to change U.S. foreign policy, has held a demonstration at the main entrance to Fort Benning each November since 1990 calling for the closure of the training facility. Since protests began, more than 180 people have served prison sentences of up to two years for their acts of nonviolent civil disobedience against the SOA/ WHINSEC.

In May, Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) introduced HR 1217 in the House of Representatives to suspend operations at the SOA/ WHINSEC and to investigate the use at the school of manuals teaching torture techniques. The bill currently has over 115 bipartisan co-sponsors.

?I am honored to receive this recognition,? said Fr. Bourgeois. ?Inspired by the work of past Peace Prize recipients and the stories of those working for justice around the world, we will continue our struggle to close the SOA/ WHINSEC and to call for true justice, at home and abroad.?

Read a letter of support from U.S. Representative Barbara Lee>>

Photos by Michael Klarmann.