U.S. Community Organizer Wounded by Contras

By Carter Garber

Vol. 10, No.5, 1988, p. 8

The Rev. Lucius Walker, of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization was wounded in August while leading a study tour to Nicaragua. Walker is the founding director of IFCO, a national, ecumenical, social justice agency.

Walker and nine other tour members were on a civilian ferry from the Atlantic coast to the inland town of Rama when the boat wee hit by gunfire and mortars. Of the 197 people on board, two Nicaraguan civilians were killed and twenty-nine others were wounded including Walker. He was fortunate only to have been grazed by a bullet.

Walker said the attack was deliberately aimed at civilians and was an attempt to sink the ferry. Contras have attacked the express boat three times in the past, but have not previously denied responsibility as they did in the August 2 incident. Walker suggested the denials for the recent attack were due to the presence on the ferry of U.S. citizens. Walker said Nicaraguan civilians continue to be "wounded and terrorized in contra attacks," despite ceasefire agreements.

This study tour was one of many that have taken North American community and church leaders to Central America. An estimated 70,000 U.S. citizens have traveled to Nicaragua in the past decade. The IFCO study tour lost no time in communicating what they had experienced, holding press conferences in Managua, Miami, New York, and Washington. Walker urged concerned citizens to ask their representatives to reject all further aid to the contract, and to encourage the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs to hold hearings on destabilization of the peace process by the U.S. State Department and the increased attacks by the contras on civilian targets (Contact: Rep. George Crokett, Chair, 2235 Rayburn Bldg., Washington, DC 20015; 2022252261).

The majority of IFCO's work is in the U.S. where the twenty-two-year-old group fosters church support for community organizing. IFCO provides technical assistance and training in proposal writing, program planning, and organizing. It serves as a fiscal agent and is initiating a fellowship program so that Third World organizers can take a sabbatical to improve their work.

Walker said organizers need a broader world view to understand the context of problems they face locally. "Fine basic issues on which communities organize--poverty, unemployment, homelessness--are similar in both North and Central America," states Walker. IFCO study tours are intended to help North Americans learn why and how Central Americans are organizing and changing their communities. IFCO also sponsors Central American Information Weeks during which speakers are made available throughout a state. Such events were held recently in South Carolina and Kentucky. For information, contact IFCO, 402 W. 145th St., New York, NY 10031; 212-926-6757.