Pastors for Peace's Shameful Visit to Cuba

A propaganda caravan pays homage to the brutal Castro regime.

[](/sites/default/files/uploads/2012/08/pastors-for-peace.gif)As Jacob Laskin recently noted, courageous Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, founder of the nonviolent Christian Liberation Movement, recently passed away in a suspicious car crash. As Humberto Fontova recently observed, wealthy Hollywood actor Mike Farrell has been parroting the propaganda of the Communist Castro regime. But on a recent trip to Cuba an American religious organization, Pastors for Peace, managed to outperform the actor, ignore all Cuban dissidents, and prop up a totalitarian state.

Pastors for Peace is part of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), founded in 1967 “to advance the struggles of oppressed people for justice and self-determination.” But on their recent “Friendshipment Caravan” to Cuba, Pastors for Peace advanced the regime that has been oppressing the Cuban people for decades.

Caravan co-directors Rev. Luis Barrios and Gail Walker told reporters that “the continuity of the solidarity movement with Cuba is a must for people with conscience.” Likewise, when the caravan was touring U.S. cities, Sandino Gomez of Pastors for Peace said that “Our project is designed as an act of solidarity with the Cuban cause. It is about uplifting people out of poverty through education, through healthcare, through job opportunities. People here should care about what is happening there because truthfully, if the Cubans can do it, we can do it.”

Retired Fresno City College professor Gerry Bill told reporters that “I want people to know that Cuba isn’t what they think it is. I would like to encourage more people to go and see it for themselves. You know, it is not a police state with a cop on every corner, or anything like that.” The professor added, “you don’t see poverty or homelessness in Cuba, where everybody basically has a place to live. They have clothes. They have education.” Even so, Pastors for Peace, collected 100 tons of humanitarian aid for Cuba.

While they were touring Cuba in busses, dissident Oswaldo Payá died under suspicious circumstances. The caravan ignored Payá and all Cuban dissidents. Instead they supported the “Cuban Five,” Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez, all tried and imprisoned in the United States for gathering intelligence on U.S. air bases and compiling information on officers in the Southern Command.

While ignoring Cuban prisoners of conscience, Pastors for Peace also met with relatives of the Cuban Five and portrayed them as “anti-terrorist Cuban fighters” unfairly held in U.S. prisons. The Five were “heroes” who were only monitoring “violent actions by Florida-based terrorist groups against Cuba.” Therein lies a back story.

The Castro regime is so repressive Cubans will flee at any opportunity, in anything that floats, leaving loved ones behind. Such flight entails great risk, and by some estimates as many as 80,000 Cubans have perished fleeing the Communist regime. The Florida-based group Brothers to the Rescue flies the Straits of Florida in light planes to alert the U.S. Coast Guard to fleeing refugees. The Cuban Five infiltrated Brothers to the Rescue and alerted the Castro regime, which scrambled MIG fighters and downed one of the Brother’s unarmed planes, killing four.

Caravan co-director Gail Walker told reporters that supporting the Cuban Five, “is an extension of our faith as people of conscience.” Walker is the daughter of Pastors for Peace founder Rev. Lucius Walter, a former associate general secretary of the National Council of Churches. In 2000, Rev. Walker formed a national committee to return Elian Gonzalez, then only six years old, to Cuba. When Cuban dictator Fidel Castro visited New York, the Rev. Walker, who died in 2010, arranged Castro’s meetings.

Caravan co-director Rev. Luis Barrios bills himself as a “liberation theologian” but during the trip the clergyman issued no call for Cubans to be liberated from a regime that, according to Amnesty International, remains a one-party state that restricts the freedom of expression, association and assembly. None of the Pastors for Peace issued a manifesto for internationally supervised free elections, with multiple parties, a true choice for voters, and no fear of intimidation.

Pastors for Peace thus gave humanitarian aid to a nation they claimed is a model of healthcare, education and job opportunities, as Sandino Gomez put it. They maintained silence on human rights violations and remained uncritical of the Communist Castro regime. They ignored Cuban dissidents but defended agents of the Castro regime who spied on the United States and facilitated attacks on those who flee Cuba. And of course they denounced the U.S. embargo.

But remember, this was not a matter of politics but “faith and conscience,” as Gail Walker said. Little wonder that Cuba’s Jose Marti Cultural Society gave Pastors for Peace its highest award “La Utilidad de la Virtud,” (the utility of virtue), reserved for “prominent figures and institutions that promote and defend the foundations of the Cuban nation.”

Pastors for Peace are the last worshipful defenders of a loathsome Marxist-Sadist regime. They would be wise not to be in Cuba when that regime comes tumbling down, which cannot be long delayed.

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