James Hodge and Linda Cooper. Disturbing the Peace: The Story of Father Roy Bourgeois and the Movement to Close the School of the Americas. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books; 2004. Foreward by Martin Sheen. 244 pages, including index. ISBN-10: 1-57075-434-9.
The authors chronicle the life of Father Roy Bourgeois and the development of the School of the Americas Watch.
Father Roy fought in the Vietnam War. There, he met a French missionary, who, through his example of caring for the Vietnamese poor and sick and injured, set Bourgeois on a path away from violence. After years of searching, he began a career as a clergyman.
Serving a mission in Bolivia, Father Roy began to realize that the violence peoples of the Americas endured was not an accident. Rather, it was partly the result of policies his own government pursued.
As other Catholic missionaries, both clergy and lay persons, were murdered in Latin America, Father Roy increasingly found that the trail of blood began in Columbus, GA. There, in the U.S. Army base Fort Benning, the United States was operating the School of the Americas. This school attracted military personnel from most countries of the Western Hemisphere, and it was the only educational program entirely taught in Spanish.
Although the school had been operating since the 1950s, information about its existence and activities was not readily available. Chance meetings and unrelated news reports led Father Roy to begin protest vigils at the base, demanding the closure of the school. Due to the dedication and persistence of Father Roy and other activists, this vigil has grown into the School of the Americas Watch, a leading organization advocated peace and justice in Latin America.
The book is a good balance between Father Roy's personal transformations, information about the human rights abuses of the graduates of the School of the Americas and the cover-ups of the successive U.S. governments of U.S. support of these abuses.
I believe that Muslims in the U.S. can learn a lot about the challenges in improving U.S. policy towards predominantly Muslim countries by studying U.S. policy towards the predominantly Christian countries of the Americas. They would find that the U.S. has been an equal opportunity imperialist. I hope that U.S. Muslim activists would then form productive alliances with other justice-seeking Americans and press the U.S. government to refrain from human rights violations, preemptive wars, covert actions and trade agreements that fail to protect workers' rights, subsistence agriculture and the environment.