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Liam Cawley | The Birdsell Project

Liam Cawley

I would like my community, my Church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country. I ask them to accept that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure. … I ask them to be able to associate such a death with the many other deaths that were just as violent, but forgotten through indifference and anonymity.

Father Christian de Chergé


Mere months after writing his last testament in 1996, Father Christian de Chergé was killed along with six other Trappist monks from the Tibhirine monastary in Algiers. Their martyrdom was not unusual for the twentieth century, a period during which more Christians were killed than in every previous century combined. This trend has not stopped in the new millenium: in 2010, the Pew Forum reported that nearly three quarters of all the world’s nations exhibit de jure or de facto persecution against Christians.

This recent escalation is alarming. The theological significance of martyrdom in Christianity provides another context in which to examine the phenomenon: not only political, but mystical. Complicating the issue is the apparent lack of interest in mainstream America: what has been described by chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks as “one of the crimes against humanity of our time”  goes largely overlooked.

Visitors to this installation are encouraged to light votive candles and carry vigil candles to illuminate the interior and discover the inscriptions and image-signs that cover the walls. These actions draw on liturgical practices such as the candlelight vigil to examine the political visibility of victims of anti-Christian persecution. Utilizing themes of collective memory deeply rooted in Christian tradition, the voluntary lighting of the space places the responsibility of visibility in the hands of the viewer.

graffiti, found crucifix, candles, ash, existing structure