By Allie Perry, Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice
If you happened to walk by New Haven’s 1905 Civil War memorial at the Broadway triangle New Year’s Day 2018 at 6 p.m., you might have wondered why, in freezing cold temperatures, a group of eleven was gathered around a cairn of field stones. They were there giving witness and calling attention to the on-going violence of the U.S. wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, by adding yet another stone to the cairn. Each stone is a memorial, inscribed with the number of U.S. service people who died in the previous month in Iraq and Afghanistan and with the approximate number of Iraqi and Afghan civilians killed. Each month the cairn gets higher and heavier, as the cumulative death tolls go up.
This monthly observance began in December 2007. Stephen Kobasa proposed the memorial and secured the New Haven Board of Park Commissioners’ permission to construct it. Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice provided the leadership, inviting local faith communities to lead the monthly rituals. Over the decade since, members of many New Haven area congregations have participated, including: St. Thomas More, First Presbyterian, Amistad Catholic Worker, Center Church, the University Church, Unitarian Society of New Haven, the Zen Center, Shalom UCC, Church of the Redeemer, Congregation Mishkan Israel, United Church on the Green, First Unitarian Universalist Society of New Haven, St. Paul and St. James, Ascension Catholic Church in Hamden, St. Thomas Episcopal.
At that first gathering, stones were placed, retroactively, documenting every month since the March 2003 start of the U.S. war against Iraq. Initially the inscribed numbers included deaths only in Iraq. As the hostilities in Afghanistan escalated, we started inscribing the stones with data for Afghanistan as well.
The permission granted in 2007 was for a temporary installation, to be dismantled when the wars end. Ten years later the violence continues, the wars persist, and, on every first Monday of the month, a group still gathers. By our presence, we grieve those who have been killed, we denounce the violence, and we renew our commitment to work fervently for the end of war and for justice and peace. Join us.