Thursday, September 9, 2010

75. The Rev. Lucius Walker Jr. Who defied U.S. Embargo of Cuba Died

The Rev. Lucius Walker who founded and directed the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) in New York, died  of massive heart attack on Tuesday.   IFCO's mission was “to help forward the struggles of oppressed peoples for justice and self-determination.” He supported the Cuban revolution and opposed the U.S. embargo as immoral.  For his effort, he was embraced by the Cuban revolutionary leadership.  

Walker was direct man who practiced what he preached.  I recall an occasion.  On May Day celebration of 2003, before large groups of Cuban trade unionists and international guests, who had gathered in the Revolution Square in Havana, Walker who spoke before Fidel Castor, the key note speaker,  spoke against a recent execution of the leader of an armed group who had taken a ferry with its passengers hostage, threatening to kill those aboard.  Walker opposed the death penalty on moral grounds.  Later, Fidel Castro who paid a surprise visit to our group, engaged in a long discussion about the death penalty in Cuba.  He too expressed the wish to eliminate it, but found it impossible in the face of threat of armed intervention by imperialism.  The U.S. had already occupied Afghanistan and had recently overthrown Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.  There was a large number of hijackings in the recent months, encouraged by statements issued by the U.S. Interest Section in Havana and other U.S. government agencies.  A group of 75 "dissidents" were put on trial and convicted for various activities encouraged, supported and funded by the U.S. Interest Section.  Most of these individuals have been release since, a large group in recent months after intervention of the Cuban Catholic Church and the Spanish government. 

Granma carries an article with the headline:  "We do not want to think of a world without Lucius Walker." 

 In the 1980s, he criticized the U.S. support of the Nicaraguan contras, and led an IFCO study delegation to that nation. While there, he was shot and wounded when rebels opened fire, killing two Nicaraguans and wounding 27 others. That experience prompted Walker to found Pastors for Peace, the non-profit that operates within IFCO and under whose banner Walker made his relief trips to Cuba.

A statement on IFCO’s website expressed "immeasurable sadness" about "the passing of our beloved, heroic, prophetic leader, Rev. Lucius Walker Jr."
IFCO also said that as of this year, the annual caravans had delivered to more than 3,200 tons of aid to Cuba.

The Rev. Thomas E. Smith, the chairman of IFCO's board, remembered Walker as "a man of courage, integrity, a great organizer and a great humanitarian."
Walker gained the attention of Cuba’s highest officials, including Fidel Castro, who would meet with him when he visited there.

Word of Walker's death was posted on the Cuban government website Cubadebate — where Fidel Castro publishes his frequent opinion columns — and carried on state-controlled television and radio and in newspapers.

The Communist Party daily Granma wrote, "Cubans, in gratitude, have to say that we don't want to think of a world without Lucius Walker."

Walker was born Aug. 3, 1930, in Roselle. He graduated from Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., in 1954, and earned a master of divinity degree from Andover Newton Theological School four years later.

In 1984, Walker was called to be the founding pastor of Salvation Baptist Church in Brooklyn.

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