From the ICRtoP email newsletter:
From the ICRtoP email newsletter:
And that's only some of the countries around the world! Want us to share more? Let us know in the comments.
All of us at One Million Bones recognize and abhor the crises that continues in Syria. The most recent numbers we have seen show 70,000 dead and 2 million displaced. And I hate to talk about "numbers" but that's how the world quantifies crises. We asked our friends at Syrian Expatriates Orgnaization to share one of their stories with us, and we are grateful for this wonderful post!
Guest Blog Post: Shlomo Bolts is a Policy Fellow at Syrian Expatriates Organization. He is also a Research Consultant for the Orthodox Jewish social justice group Uri L'Tzedek, and holds an MPhil in Modern Society and Global Transformations from Cambridge University.
In the early 1900's, my great-grandfather bid farewell to his family in Europe, and left with his brother to make the long overseas journey to the United States. Little to their knowledge, this was the last time they would see their family. In July 1941, Hitler's troops invaded my great-grandfather's home village, Vitepsk, and killed 15,000 Jews in a single week. The rest of his family was never heard from again.
Seventy years later, I started elementary school, and began learning of the tragedy that befell my people in the Holocaust. At the yearly Holocaust commemorations, which were all-day affairs at my Orthodox Jewish school, I always went through a mixture of emotions. Sadness: So many good people were lost, so many happy communities wiped out. Why did they have to die? Disbelief: How did it happen? One day they had normal lives, the next day they were victims in a history book. Anger: Where was the world?! Where were they? They sat back and watched! I resolved that if I ever saw mass atrocities occurring, I would not just watch.
There have been numerous instances of mass atrocities since the Holocaust. In each instance, the world intervened too late, or not at all. No action was taken to stop the Cambodian Killing Fields or Rwanda's Hundred Days of Hell. Instead, millions suffered until local actors (the Vietnamese Army and the Rwandan Popular Front) finally overthrew the perpetrators by military force. During the Bosnian Genocide, the world failed to intervene as the Milosevic regime indiscriminately shelled Bosniak civilians. Only after the Srebrenica Massacre of over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims was the world finally shamed to act, launching a NATO bombing campaign until Milosevic stopped the killing.
I was personally involved in a great deal of activism surrounding the Darfur Genocide. While I am proud of my work there, and of the impressive mobilization that took place, ultimately, we failed to catalyze international action to protect civilians. The perpetrator, Omar al-Bashir, still sits in power; his hold on Darfur is most likely stronger because he used mass civilian slaughter as a military strategy.
In March 2011, residents in Deraa, Syria began protests against the torture of detained youths from the city. Police forces of the dictatorial Assad regime cracked down with tanks and gunfire, but protests only grew stronger, and soldiers defected rather than shoot their own people. Soon, pro-democracy demonstrations had engulfed all of Syria, and defected soldiers were organizing into the Free Syrian Army to defend civilians from their government. Then the regime escalated its crackdown, first with artillery bombardments, then with airstrikes, then with house-to-house killings and mass rapes. Now, at least 70,000 Syrians are dead and over 2 million have fled their homes. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has called Syria a "bloody center of history," and the death toll of Syrian civilians rivals that of Bosnian civilians during the Genocide.
The Torah states, in Leviticus 19:16, "Do not spread gossip amongst your people; do not stand idle as your fellow bleeds. I am the Lord." The great Medieval scholar Rashi interprets this passage to mean that one should not watch his fellow die if he capable of saving him. A subsequent scholar, Choshen Mishpat, elaborates that in responding to the danger of another, one should not be overly zealous to preserve his own safety. Can we honestly say that, with regards to the slaughter in Syria, the world has done all that it could for the Syrian people? How much longer can we sit back and watch? How many more excuses can we make?
There are many interpretations to the situation in Syria today. Some call it a civil war. Some call it a democratic revolution. Still others call it a sectarian conflict. However, if we do not act, I believe that when our great-grandchildren open their history books to the section on Syria 2011-2013, they will read first and foremost about the mass atrocities that we allowed the Assad regime to commit during this time. And then they will ask: Where was the world?!
We do not need to be mere spectators to history, watching mass slaughter pass us by. There are concrete steps, large and small, that every person can take to raise awareness of the crisis in Syria, and they need not even be political. Syrian Expatriates Organization has sponsored a wide range of arts and culture projects inside Syria. I am working with members of the American Jewish community to develop a Syria-themed supplement to the Passover Haggadah. There is lots you can do. Every little bit helps.
The situation in Syria looks grim. In fact, the killings we see now could be the blackness that heralds the dawn, or they could signal the start of a still-darker chapter in Syrian history. To an extent, we can decide which it is, with our action or with our silence. Let us make the right choice.
We are over the moon to let you know that Carl Wilken will be one of our speakers for One Million Bones on the National Mall. Carl was with us at the Albuquerque 50,000 Bones preview installation and it seems fitting and wonderful to have him with us at the culmination of all this work. As a matter of fact, during his speech at the preview, he gave us a quote that for all of us at One Million Bones, really sums up how we feel about this work we're all doing.
He said, "When you make something with your hands, it changes the way you feel, which changes the way you think, which changes the way you act."
Remarkable words from a remarkable man.
This is what our Nevada State Coordinator, Misty Ahmic wrote about him:
Human beings as a species have evolved oven tens of thousands of years into a group of organisms that have the highest levels of intelligence on the planet earth. Through this intelligence we were able to domesticate wild animals and crops, develop into stable settled societies, learn to govern in ways that allow for everyone to have a voice, conquer the high seas, and develop means of communication to allow each person to express their individuality to one another in their own personal way. This intelligence has also lead to some of the more atrocious acts one species has ever visited upon itself…
Many of us have chosen to take an active role in doing whatever we can to bring attention towards the cessation of the murder and mutilation of people based on their birth race, religious beliefs, or inability to choose their sex at birth, or for any other reasoning the perpetrators would use to justify their unspeakable acts. Many magnetic and amazing people have come together across a myriad of organizations to help one another to accomplish this goal.
In the beginnings of the genocides in Rwanda, Carl Wilkens witnessed the pleas of help to the UN, and the rest of the world in the midst of merciless slaughter by the Tutsis of Rwanda as they watched all of their American and European friends evacuate and flee for neighboring African Nations. Carl Wilkens is an individual who personifies a group of amazing humans. He is a person who has stared genocide and poverty in the face without backing away from it. In Rwanda when all foreigners were ordered to leave the country he alone stayed behind to assist those who were directly in the path of danger, people he had grown to love and care for. In a situation where he was “ordered” to evacuate the country Carl chose instead to exist as a FREE human being, in order to help others become the same. As a result of his efforts in Rwanda after the genocides began, he helped save nearly 500 Tutsis. His “shoes” are ones that many of us would be honored to fill for even just a moment and the number of lives he has touched through his efforts and ministry are almost unimaginable. That one man can give so much of himself and his life to the service of others is a shining example to all of humanity. If we can just learn to live our lives outside of our own shoes we may learn what it takes to live in the shoes of others.
Carl's website is World Outside my Shoes. Please spend some time there, read his book, and come to see this amazing man at the Installation in DC.
Hope for an end to world's deadliest war
By John Prendergast , Special to CNN
updated 10:29 AM EST, Fri February 22, 2013
Editor's note: John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, a nonprofit organization that works to end genocide and crimes against humanity, and the Satellite Sentinel Project , a group that uses satellite imagery to monitor violence in Sudan, recently returned from a trip to eastern Congo.
(CNN) -- Early one eastern Congolese morning six months ago, Josephine was sleeping in her hut, dreaming about selling her crops. She heard people singing victory songs, thinking it was part of her dream, but gunshots jolted her awake. She could see in the light of dawn that the next village was on fire. She saw people fleeing toward her village, some being shot as they ran.
She quickly herded her four children into the tall grass, where others from her village were already hiding. They watched their village torched by the singing militia, known as Raia Mutumboki, a branch of which is allied to the M23, the latest rebel group to plunge the Congo into full-scale war.
During their first day of hiding, Josephine sent her eldest son, Emmanuel, back to the village to get food from their storehouse. He was discovered and shot. The militia began to hunt the villagers in the tall grass, again singing victory songs, using hoes and machetes to kill whomever they caught. The survivors walked for days to a displaced persons camp, where Josephine's second son, Avarino, died of malaria.
"I can't understand how human beings can treat other human beings this way," Josephine said.
This story echoes what so many have suffered through during 16 years of eastern Congo's war, the deadliest since World War II, nearly 70 years ago, with about 6.9 million deaths, based on a New York Times estimate in 2010. On Sunday, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other African states are due to sign a framework agreement that aims to build a foundation for regional peace.
That so many African states -- along with the United Nations, African Union, European Union and United States -- are uniting in an effort to address the roots of conflict in Congo is an encouraging development. The signing of this framework deal doesn't end the war in Congo, but rather it provides a starting point for a global effort to try to end finally the world's deadliest conflict.
Four important changes are under way in Congo today, giving this initiative a better chance than its predecessors.
First, for decades all of the benefits of eastern Congo's vast mineral resource wealth have gone to those with the biggest guns -- the Congolese army, local militias or neighboring countries. These minerals include, among others, gold, cobalt, copper, tin, industrial diamonds and coltan, used in cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices.
But U.S. and European consumer demands for a conflict-free minerals trade, congressional legislation, International Monetary Fund aid suspensions, U.N. experts' reports, responsible investors and other influential voices are making it harder to profit violently and illegally from mineral smuggling.
Second, regional support for armed groups inside eastern Congo has been a staple of the ongoing cycle of war there for years. For the first time, the international community is imposing meaningful consequences for evidence of cross-border weapons supply. Rwanda strenuously denies involvement, but some donors have suspended aid programs to that nation and will continue to do so until the evidence shifts toward solutions.
Third, until recently, accountability for war crimes wasn't part of the discussion despite some of the worst crimes against humanity being committed globally since World War II. But calls for international justice have intensified inside Congo and beyond, and accused war criminals are beginning to face sanctions.
Fourth, calls for the reform of a U.N. peacekeeping mission that costs more than $1 billion are increasing. Refocusing the mission on eradicating the worst armed groups, demobilizing rank-and-file combatants and helping to reform Congo's army would go much further than the present mandate. Africa has pledged 4,000 new combat troops to deal with the worst militias, and change can start with them.
When I asked Josephine why all this was happening, she replied, "The war is over the minerals, nothing else."
Although some would say that is oversimplified, it is undeniable that a major tipping point is approaching.
If the commercial incentives for the massively profitable minerals trade can be shifted from violent, illegal extraction to peaceful, legal development, Congo could enjoy a transition similar to those experienced by West African countries plagued by blood diamond wars a decade ago.
A soon-to-be-named U.N. "super envoy" should help construct a comprehensive peace process for Congo and its neighbors, building on the upcoming framework. With his history of concern over Congo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry could be helpful in this.
Two tracks seem necessary. One would involve an impartially facilitated national dialogue to address internal Congolese issues such as army and justice reform, decentralization, electoral frameworks, immigration, minority protections, land dispute adjudication, mining codes and other divisive issues. The other would be a regional process in which Congo and its neighbors could address shared security threats and negotiate cooperative investment and infrastructure arrangements that could ignite a real economic boom for Central Africa.
"People around the world should do all they can to stop those instigating war in my country," Josephine told me. "That is the only way we can be at peace. If I hear my village is at peace, I will drop everything and go home with my children."
Given the history of international looting of Congo's resources, we should help give Josephine -- and Congo -- that chance.