By Susan Leslie, Director, UUA Office for Congregational Advocacy & Witness
On Saturday, a coalition of Unitarian Universalist congregations from the Mass Bay District and the UUA, Military Families Speak Out, and United for Justice with Peace (a MA coalition of peace and justice organizations) gathered on the Boston Common and read the names of all the US military personnel killed in Iraq since the war began six years ago.
There were eight UU parish ministers and representatives and groups from 15 UU congregations (Marblehead, Dedham, Cambridge, Concord, Arlington Street Church, Community Church, First Parish Arlington, Sharon, Jamaica Plain, Sherborn, Middleboro, Beverly, Bedford, No Andover, and Stow). A group of UU young adults who had heard about the event on Facebook came together from Western MA to the Metro Boston area. College students from Bridgewater State also picked up on the Facebook listing, checked out www.uua.org/socialjustice and came carrying peace signs.
The names were read for six minutes at a time, followed by the ringing of a gong. Every hour there was a minute of silence for the Iraqi victims. Members of military families spoke gave testimonials including Bonnie Gorman and Gold Star Mother Malida Arredondo. [The Arredondo family circled the Common with their flatbed truck exhibit for Gold Star Families to End the War and sent passersby over to our Witness event.] They spoke of the pain and suffering of losing loved ones in an “ill-begotten war” and they called for healthcare and jobs for returning soldiers. Patrick Daugherty, of Iraq Veterans Against the War, called for a justification for President Obama’s plan to leave 50,000 troops in Iraq.
Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo, minister, UU Church of Marblehead, MA, presided over the event and began by saying:
We gather today in worshipful remembrance of those lost in the United States war with Iraq. Although it seems unreal that we mark a sixth year of US Occupation, the consequences are all too real for many here. We mark with great sadness over 4300 US deaths. We mark with a different sadness all the Iraqi deaths. Some reports are of up to 1 million victims. Neither lesser or greater, but each arriving with a host of other emotions. We gather for more than remembrance of these lost lives, however. We come here with a call to Fulfill the Promise, to End the Occupation, to recognize the cost of the occupation upon Iraq and stand accountable. to tell the truth about those who have returned and how we as a nation will own their stories and tend to their needs. We gather because it matters. We gather because it was on our watch that we arrived in Iraq and we must be quite sure that we bring them home. Thank you for joining us here today.
She ended our time together with these words:
We gather with heavy hearts.
Among us, those grieving the unimaginable. Those who have lost loved ones.
Among us are those who served alongside comrades who would not return, and those who would return, forever altered..
Among us are those who know war too well. Those who served faithfully and know death in ways that inhabit nightmares and on some days, waking hours.
We gather with hopeful hearts as well.
Among us, those looking to a new way of being in the world. A way that will lead to a more rapid return of our soldiers.
Among us, those looking with new eyes at raising awareness of the needs of those already home, but facing economic and health issues that should shame our nation.
Among us, those who know that change will not arrive without our voice – our call to fulfill the promise, end the occupation, tell the truth and take good care.
A picture and caption of the event was featured in The Boston Sunday Globe on March 22nd. We also got some good Indy coverage including a You Tube posting with lots of footage of Rev. Wendy and others.
Mass Peace Action posted a photo album of the witness.
It felt good to be standing with UUs and partners as we work to help President Obama end this immoral war that he too opposed. We remain faithful in our witness to end this war.