A city where nearly 50 missing women, children and transgender Winnipeg sex-trade workers had been murdered or gone missing over the previous 26 years.
Most of them aboriginal.
Word has it that there has been a serial killer at work, and on Monday, June 25, 2012, police charged a man with three of these killings.
In Winnipeg's inner city is Vineyard Church,
located in a century-old warehouse at Main and Sutherland, which backs onto the memorial garden.
The Vineyard Memorial Garden, as it is formally called. Rieger [one of the pastoral staff at the church] and some friends started it to remember first 20, and now 24, murdered and missing neighbourhood women. At first, Rieger recalled Monday, it was murdered sex-trade workers who were memorialized; now it's any woman from the area who dies violently.
It was living sex-trade workers who inspired Rieger because they kept coming to him and asking if he could drive them to cemeteries where their friends were buried. And it was these same women -- women like Jane -- who helped build the memorial garden.
Stone by stone. Name by name. Tear after tear.
It was built in way that also honoured aboriginal tradition, and in a manner that allowed families and friends to have a place close by to grieve. The plaques to each woman still have to be put in place. So I asked Rieger when it would be finished.
"Never," he said.
Quotes from Gordon Sinclair Jr.'s full article at Winnipeg Free Press.
For more, read the Vineyard Church's story about the garden.
Christine Pohl tells this related story:
A very moving example of hospitality caught me by surprise as I visited one of the communities. Jubilee Partners has set aside a beautiful spot on its property for a graveyard. In it are buried several people who had been homeless before they died, a couple of refugees who became ill and died after they had come to the United States, and two men who had been convicted of capital crimes and were executed by the state. The quiet beauty of the place offered a poignant recognition of the humanity of people who were in many ways society’s castoffs. Their lives had been acknowledged with a simple funeral service and grave marker, arranged by a community who noticed, and cared about, their passing. This dimension of hospitality has very ancient connections. The early church took responsibility for burying strangers, especially indigent ones.
From Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, p. 167.
Added January 3, 2013.