By Our Presence, We Grieve Those Who Have Been Killed

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.

New Haven Hosts Replica of Solitary Confinement Cell

by Allie Perry, Shalom UCC, NH and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture

What is it like to be isolated and segregated in a small prison cell 23/7 for days, weeks, years, and in some cases even decades?  The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is clear.  It is not just like torture; it is torture. According to Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, holding a person in solitary confinement for a period of time longer than 15 days is torture. On any given day, however, around 80,000 people in the United States are being held in solitary confinement.

To help people understand that prolonged isolation is a form of torture, NRCAT has created a replica solitary confinement cell. The NRCAT replica confinement cell has traveled around the country and is now coming to New Haven.

For three weeks, the cell will be on display at the New Haven Free Public Library, 133 Elm Street, for the first week, Monday, Jan. 30-Saturday, Feb. 4; at Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library, 120 High Street for the second week, Sunday, Feb. 5-Saturday, Feb. 11; and for the third week, Feb. 11-18, at the Yale Law School library, 127 Wall St.

Initiated by three New Haven United Church of Christ congregations (United, Redeemer, and Shalom), this project had engaged a powerful coalition of community, religious, and university organizations. In addition to the churches, organizers of this project include: the New Haven Free Public (Ives Memorial) Library, the Yale Undergraduate Prison Project, the Orville Schell Human Rights Center at Yale Law School, Dwight Hall at Yale, My Brother’s Keeper, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Wilton Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the CT ACLU, Malta Justice Initiative, and Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice.

The project’s goals are to provide opportunities to experience a simulation of isolation; to educate the use of solitary confinement, including practices in Connecticut; and to equip people to advocate for limiting and stopping the use of solitary confinement, precisely because such prolonged isolation is cruel, unusual, and degrading treatment.  For the schedule of the extensive program of speakers, panels, book talks, performances, and films during the three weeks that the cell will be in New Haven, go to: www.insidetheboxnhv.org/events.