The 50 years of solidarity and commitment demonstrated by the Interfaith Community Organization (IFCO)-Pastors for Peace was highlighted in a commemorative event at the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) headquarters in Havana.
The legacy of its founder, Reverend Lucius Walker, was honored, seven years after his death, for his commitment to fighting for a change in social relations around the world, to resist the hegemonic power of the United States.
During the event, his daughter Gail Walker, now executive director of Pastors for Peace, recalled her fathers efforts to attract attention to struggles against injustice, and support the revolutionary processes in Nicaragua and Cuba.
Calling Lucius a teacher, pastor, and community organizer, she stated that he was a much-loved son of Fidel Castro; he had the idea of supporting youth who didn't have the resources to study medicine in U.S. universities, and bringing them to Cuba to be trained as doctors, with the only requirement that, after graduating, they commit to return to provide services in underserved neighborhoods.
She said she was proud to see so many people honor her father in different parts of the world.
Reverend Walker was born August 3, 1930, in New Jersey, and in May of 1964 sponsored the National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee, and in 1967 created IFCO. He held the position of adjunct secretary general of the National Council of Churches 1973-1978, and in 1984 became pastor of the Salvation Baptist Church.
During a stay in Sandinista Nicaragua, he was wounded in an attack by the U.S. backed contras, and conceived the Pastors for Peace project, which beginning in 1992, organized 21 Friendship Caravans to transport donations to the Cuban people and challenge the blockade. (There have now been 28.)
He died September 8, 2010.
Decorated Hero of the Republic Fernando González Llort, ICAP president, referred to the effort made by Lucius to build greater support within churches for progressive organizations fighting for social justice, principally in disadvantaged, Black and Latino communities.
"His leadership helped to strengthen initiatives of an international character, such as support for Haitian refugees, delegations and caravans to Central America." The work to gather donations for Cuba served as a way to disseminate the country's reality among the U.S. population, and build a movement to advocate for an end to hostile U.S. policies," González noted.
He recalled the significance of the second caravan to Cuba, which challenged U.S. authorities crossing the border into Mexico at Laredo, Texas, after touring 90 cities, and collecting 12.5 tons of medicine, powdered milk, bicycles, school supplies and Bibles.
A bus was confiscated there, in an attempt to detain the caravan, leading to a hunger strike until the cargo was allowed to proceed.
"They never imagined that this vehicle would become a symbol of the struggle against the blockade and a genuine expression of friendship between our peoples," González affirmed.
He commented that IFCO participated actively in the struggle to return the child
Elián González to his father in Cuba, and joined the worldwide campaign to free the Cuban Five, unjustly imprisoned in the United States. He concluded his remarks expressing gratitude to the organization and calling for more participants to join caravans, saying, "Cuba needs the solidarity of those who stand up united to support our sovereignty.