Pastors help PR peaceful relations

By Adrian Stewart

Arizona Daily Wildcat

After being shot by Nicaraguan contras in 1988, Rev. Lucius Walker decided to do something to change public policy.

So, he founded Pastors for Peace.

"I founded the organization because I was looking for a Christian way to deal with the anger and outrage," Walker said. "My tax dollars were buying bullets for people who may have tried to kill me."

While leading other religious leaders on a regularly scheduled passenger ship, a cease-fire between the contras and the Nicaraguan army was broken with what Walker calls a "terrorist attack."

Walker, who was hit by stray gunfire during the incident, will speak on citizen initiatives and answer questions about his experiences today from noon until 1 p.m. in Room 281 of the Student Union.

He will also call for an end to the 32-year embargo of Cuba. The United States has had a total economic embargo in place against Cuba since 1962.

"The United States is isolated in the international community by this embargo," Walker said. "Last year, Israel was the only nation to vote with the United States on this issue in the United Nations General Assembly.

"Pastors for Peace works for peaceful relations between the United States and Cuba," Walker said.

"Foolishness" is how University of Arizona political science Professor Edward Williams characterized the embargo on Cuba.

"Ending the embargo on Cuba would only increase American influence and would prevent a severe anti-American reaction when Castro finally does fall," Williams said.

Tom Ford, of the Tucson chapter of Pastors for Peace, said the United States is the only significant country that refuses to recognize Cuba.

"Our last friendshipment to Cuba included $1 million dollars from the government of Canada to the Martin Luther King Center in Havana," he said.

The organization is not political, though, Ford said.

"Pastors for Peace serves those who are not being served by their governments," he said. "We provide an umbrella of protection by being international witnesses."

The mere presence of an American observer reduces the likelihood of human rights abuses, Ford said.

"Pastors for Peace is private citizens involved in public policy," said Rev. Kenneth Kennon of Tucson Pastors for Peace. "Pastors for Peace helps people here understand issues that they don't get from popular press.

"We send caravans from the northern tier of America through 100 to 140 communities down to Central America," he said.

Kennon said the caravan drivers speak at rallies and community events in order to raise awareness.

Nationally, the organization has delivered nearly $50 million in humanitarian goods to non-government agencies in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Cuba.

Locally, Tucson Pastors for Peace has sent 16 vehicles, 25 volunteer drivers and approximately 120 tons of humanitarian goods.

Ford said Pastors for Peace collected more than $18,000 in Tucson last year, mostly from private citizens donating $10 or $20.

Pastors for Peace purchases Mercedes 12-ton box trucks for the non-government agencies it assists in Central America. Ford, who has driven one down to Central America, describes the easy-to-maintain trucks as "brutes that will go 600,000 miles."

Walker's visit is co-sponsored by the UA Latin American Area Center and the Task Force on Central America.

The Dove of Peace Lutheran Church is hosting a fund-raiser and potluck supper Wednesday at 6 p.m. Walker will speak on Central America and Cuba and the work of Pastors for Peace.

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