In 1967, Rev. Lucius Walker, a Baptist minister from New Jersey, founded the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) to provide aid to oppressed people in the United States and around the world. IFCO describes itself as “the first national foundation directed and controlled by people of color,” and that they “act as a bridge between predominantly mainline churches and community groups conceived of and run by people of color.” Their main focus has been on education, housing, health care and legal issues pertaining to those with little or no voice.
In 1988, “Pastors for Peace” was created to bring attention to U.S. foreign policy in Nicaragua, but it was their first “Friendshipment” caravans to Cuba in 1992 that brought international attention. The caravans, which are routinely detained, hassled then released at the Mexican border by the U.S. government, are in direct violation of what Walker described as an “immoral and unjust blockade of Cuba.” For the past 24 years, hundreds of supporters, both religious and otherwise, have toured the United States gathering support for their cause while gathering some 3,200 tons of humanitarian aid for the Cuban people. Included in the shipments have been dozens of school buses, hundreds of computers, food, bibles, medical equipment and medicine, satellite dishes, solar panels, ambulances, construction and roofing supplies.
Walker, who has been accused of being a communist himself, died of a heart attack in 2010. His obituary in the New York Times noted the following: “The Bible says feed the hungry, clothe the poor,” Mr. Walker said in an interview with The Washington Post in 1996. “It doesn’t say to starve the Communists.”
Today, Walker’s daughter, Gail, is the executive director of “Pastors for Peace,” and their mission in Cuba continues.