Guiseppe Conlon House
We decided we would like to honour the memory of Giuseppe Conlon by naming our new hospitality house in after him. Giuseppe (named after the man who ran the local ice cream store) came to London from Belfast where he lived in 1974 as an act of mercy, to visit his son in prison. His son was Gerry Conlon, one of the wrongly convicted and later acquitted ‘Guildford Four’. Giuseppe’s reward for his concern was to be arrested, tortured and framed as one of the ‘Maguire Seven’, all of them relatives of Gerry and Giuseppe. Giuseppe lived the rest of his life in British prisons and died in custody in 1980. Eleven years later the convictions of the surviving members of the Maguire Seven were overturned.
Gareth Peirce, lawyer in the Guilford 4 case, also represented CWer Martin Newell in the Jubilee Ploughshares trial and other ploughshares groups at trial in England.
The themes of hospitality, imprisonment, visiting the imprisoned, miscarriages of justice and struggling to live a life of nonviolence in a world of institutionalised violence are common in the life of Giuseppe Conlon and in the experiences of both CWs and guests at Giuseppe Conlon House. The life and struggles of Giuseppe Colon are an inspiration to us all. His story, and the story of the Guildford 4 and others, are told in the film "In the Name of the Father" and books: "Proved Innocent" by Gerry Conlon (1990) and "Dispatches from the Darkside” by Gareth Peirce.
House of Hospitality in Haringey
Many of our guests come to us depressed, scarred by their experience, by the on-going anxiety of having ‘no status’, of having to flee their country and their home and live without a home, without a welcome, without the resources and freedom we all take for granted. Not accepted, but still stuck here. In a prison without walls for the sole reason of not having the right passport, the right colour skin, the right language.
``If God does not build the house, in vain do its builders labour…. Those who are sowing in tears will sing when they reap”
The tears of our guests are usually hidden inside their depression, but those words of Psalm 127 have been fulfilled with a vengeance recently. Ali and Jean Richard, both former long-term guests at Dorothy Day House, have both been given ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’! Also Abukar who lived with us for two weeks, got ‘leave to remain’ two days in! Certainly a time for rejoicing!
There’s another reason to rejoice too. We have opened Giuseppe Conlon House, our new house of hospitality in north London! We have been given the use of this property for two years, rent free, as a base for us, as a centre for the ‘works of mercy’, especially for our work with destitute refugees, who are certainly among those ‘least of these’ who Jesus reminds us are the first in whom we should see God, see the face of the suffering and also dignified and very human Christ.
Muslims as the new Irish
At our opening ceremony in November 2010, Gareth Peirce spoke eloquently to the appropriateness of a house of hospitality bearing the Conlon name, reflecting on the struggles Giuseppe's wife Sarah endured visiting her husband in English jails through the five years before he died in custody. Gareth made the connections between what happened to the Irish community then and what is happening to the Muslim community now in the context of President Bush's never ending "War on Terror", as she does in her new book.
We were also reminded then of other ongoing injustices and tragedies, by Rosario Miranda. Rosario was an Angolan friend of Jimmy Mubenga, and she described Jimmy's death in GS4/ UK Border Control custody at Heathrow in October 2010. Rosario spoke of the family's ongoing grief and thirst for justice. He called for solidarity with the Mubenga family and for those involved to be held accountable.
Realities such as these make us both sad and angry. What inspires us is our faith and the faithful witness of so many others, from Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin to the Berrigans and more recently people like Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Non-Violence and our Catholic Worker friends from the US, Carmen Trotta and Frank Cordaro. These are what keep us going, keep us ‘keeping on, keeping on’.