Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Iraq war memorial vandalized, but vigils carry on

By Abram Katz
Register Staff
— A small group gathered near the brightly lit Civil War monument Monday night, to tend to a small pile of rocks in a dark corner at Elm and Park streets intended to raise awareness of American and Iraqi casualties in the Iraq war.
About 20 people held candles, sang and recited prayers at the modest Iraq Memorial Cairn, which was vandalized several times last month.
On the first Monday of each month since December, the group has added another rock, painted with the number of Americans and Iraqis killed in the previous month.
“It’s a solemn gathering, a prayer of hope that the war will end, and a statement of peace,” said Sandra Olsen, pastor of the Center Church on the Green.
A rock stolen last week was replaced and a new one added, listing last month’s figures, released by the Department of Defense: In January, 39 U.S. troops were killed, along with 485 Iraqis.
Stephen Kobasa, a member of Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice, a group of Christians, Moslems, Buddhists and Jews opposed to the war, said, “The site has been vandalized. We grieve over the desire not to know the truth.”
Kobasa said, “We are diverse in our faith, but united in our purpose. We gather to share our anguish over our country’s culture of violence,” and to find an alternative.
Whoever removed one of the rocks may have acted out of misplaced patriotism, Kobasa said.
“The war is made largely invisible, and deliberately so. We’re trying to counter that,” he said.
The 15-minute meeting was attended by about 20 people, including several organizers.
“People are so busy and they feel as if they have no control, not much of a voice,” Olsen said.
Allie Perry, of the Shalom United Church of Christ and another member of Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice, said the low turnout suggests that people are beginning to feel that they have more influence over the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The cairn is basically a burial marker, a sober, weighty reminder, she said.
“Vandalism is hard to fathom,” she said.

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