Rev. Thomas E. Smith, President of the Interreligous Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) and Pastors for Peace, will speak on Friday July 9 at 7:15pm at Central United Methodist Church, 639 N. 25th Street in Milwaukee. His talk will be preceded by a potluck dinner at 6:30pm, as part of a send off celebration for the 21st Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba. The event is free and open to the public.
Pastors for Peace and IFCO were founded by Rev. Lucius Walker, the founding director of Milwaukee’s Northcott Neighborhood House and a key civil rights leader in Milwaukee in the 1960’s. Rev. Walker has strong ties to Milwaukee, having served as the first African American professional on Milwaukee’s southside on the staff of the Christian Center, as his first assignment after seminary, and before he was selected to help launch Northcott. He later moved from Milwaukee to Harlem, where he set up IFCO as a national foundation to support faith-based programs for social justice, and then established Pastors for Peace as a way to involve and educate grass roots people in the U.S. on the effects of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.
IFCO/Pastors for peace also serves as the U.S. center for applications and recruitment for U.S. students of color to receive free medical school education in Cuba, where some 122 U.S. students are now enrolled, including Joya Mosley of Milwaukee. They study with medical students from developing countries around the world who attend medical school for free in Cuba in return for a pledge to return home and work in underserved communities. Cuba has also organized the largest and longest lasting medical aid mission in Haiti, and currently has some 30,000 doctors serving in Africa and Latin America, often in communities where no doctors had worked before.
Rev. Smith is the senior pastor of Monumental Baptist Church of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a 300 member congregation. He also serves as Executive Director of the House of David, and as Chairman of the Center for Family Excellence and of Monumental Mission Ministries Inc., and on the Allegheny County Volunteer Board for Emergency Food and Shelter. As President of the Board of the IFCO/Pastors for Peace, he has traveled to Cuba on many occasions, as well as to Chiapas, Mexico. Rev Smith was one of the members who met with ex-president Fidel Castro on the 2009 caravan to Cuba. Rev. Smith will share his important perspective on why PFP challenges a law it sees as being unjust that asks us to harm rather than to love our neighbor.
The Pastors’ Caravan is an act of nonviolent civil disobedience designed to show friendship between the people of the U.S. and Cuba, and to educate the public here about the effects of the continued US ban on travel to and trade with Cuba, which has been in effect for nearly 50 years.
Between now on July 9, local supporters of the Caravan are collecting donated humanitarian supplies for the Caravan, including wheelchairs, crutches, building supplies, Bibles in Spanish, unopened medicine with expiration dates of February 1, 2011 or later, bicycles, musical instruments and sports equipment, all of which must be in good shape and working order. Donations can be dropped off now until July 9th at Central United Methodist Church at 25th Street and Wisconsin Avenue (office hours Mon.-Thurs. 9 am-2:30 pm and Sunday 8:30 am-11;45 am; best to call 414 344-1600 in advance). For more information, see www.wicuba.org or www.pastorsforpeace.org or call the Wisconsin Coalition to Normalize Relations with Cuba, 414-273-1040, ext. 12, or 414-964-0350.