Where did last week go?

Well dear blog readers,

I missed an entire week. But there were reasons.  I was traveling on One Million Bones business. We were filming for a documentary. We were hosting workshops in the last run up to the National Mall.

Forgive me, and rest assured I have an amazing bit of information to share with you today.  I hope that makes up...

You know, we are 75 days out from the event.  Every day a little bit more of the programming gets put in place and confirmed.  Last week, the activities we've been talking about for Monday, June 10th -- the closing of the event, as it were-- were officially announced.

Act Aaginst Atrocities: an advocacy day.

It's going to be amazing!  It's organized in partnership with Enough! There is training and support to make it super successful.  You have to sign up ahead of time.  Do it here!  Do it now!



Syria. Two years on.

From the ICRtoP email newsletter:


Widespread calls for an urgent response to end the two-year crisis in Syria
On 15 March, Syrian activists and opposition groups marked the two-year anniversary of the country’s deadly crisis with protests in several towns, including Deraa and Aleppo. Rebel forces called for increased attacks on the government, with the leader of the Free Syrian Army vowing to continue fighting until the Assad regime is gone. As a result, Syrian government forces have strengthened security measures in Damascus in anticipation of violence.
The crisis in Syria erupted on 15 March 2011 when civilian protesters took to the streets in widespread demonstrations calling on the government to initiate reforms. The government responded brutally, reportedly subjecting civilians to arbitrary detentiontorture, and the deployment and use of heavy artilleryWith the militarization of opposition groups, the conflict has evolved into a de facto civil war, and violence has become increasingly sectarian in nature. To date, the international community has been unable to negotiate an end to the conflict. On 1 March, the European Union amendedsanctions imposed on Syria to allow for increased support, including non-lethal military equipment and armoured vehicles, to opposition forces on the ground.
The toll of the conflict on the population in and around Syria has been devastating. The United Nations (UN) Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, Radhouane Nouicer stated on 15 March that, “the civilian space is eroding as there is almost no place deemed to be safe. Syrians have no idea when, or if, they will have a normal life again.” According to the UN, over 70,000 people have been killed, 1.1 million refugees have fled to neighbouring states such as Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey and 2.5 million people have been internally displaced"It is deplorable that high numbers of civilian casualties are now a daily occurrence to which people are unfortunately getting accustomed," said Robert Mardini, Head of Operations for the Near and Middle East at the International Committee of the Red Cross.
International civil society organizations have issued reports and statements to mark the two-year anniversary, with some describing the humanitarian situation on the ground and others calling for international action to end the violence. TheInternational Federation for Human Rights organized a global moment on 15 March for activists to join together and demand an end to the massacres in Syria. In a recent report, Medecins Sans Frontieres described the many obstacles faced by health care workers, hospitals and aid organizations in the country as well as the insufficient assistance to refugees in neighboring states. Meanwhile, Amnesty International reiterated its call to the UN Security Council to uphold accountability for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Syria and refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect echoed Amnesty’s message, and then called specifically on the BRICS community (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) to take the opportunity of its upcoming summit in South Africa to call for humanitarian access in Syria and an end to the conflict. Save the Children< /a> joined the United Nations Children’s Fund in calling for resources, and asked international donors to “turn pledges into funding and deliver assistance on the ground in a way that is needs-based, sustained, flexible, and coordinated”.Below, you will find excerpts from and access to recent publications from these organizations.




Guess where we have people working on the project!

Sierra Leone!





And that's only some of the countries around the world!  Want us to share more?  Let us know in the comments.



Mass Atrocities in Syria: Where was the World?

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.


One Million Bones' Big Monday Announcement

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.