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Memorializing Victims of Congo Atrocities with One Million Bones

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Memorializing Victims of Congo Atrocities with One Million Bones

Posted by JD Stier on December 5, 2011

Earlier this fall, I connected with the volunteers and staff from the One Million Bones project in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The project, a collaborative art installation, is intended to create a visible movement to increase global awareness of the ongoing atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Burma. One Million Bones asks people around the globe to create and submit their handmade bones to raise awareness of these conflicts, and suggests a small donation that will benefit three organizations that provide advocacy and direct services on the ground—one of which is Raise Hope for Congo.

As part of their visual protest, One Million Bones has teamed up with Students Rebuild, CARE, and Global Nomads to launch “A Path Forward.” This program provides students not only with a hands-on art project but offers opportunities for students and educators to learn about these conflicts from free interactive programs, including live webcasts, field blogs, and interactive videoconferences with peers and relief workers in Congo and Somalia.

I met up with One Million Bones last August, when the citizens of Albuquerque laid down 50,000 handmade bones to commemorate the victims and survivors of these mass atrocities and to call upon the United States government to take action.

I joined activists, artists, and families as we walked silently down the street with bones in our outstretched arms. I saw a Congolese couple, close to 60 years old, standing just to the side of the procession, both husband and wife crying. And as I surveyed the scene, I could not help but cry myself. Not from the horror of the crises in Congo, in Sudan, in Burma and elsewhere that had brought us together in commemoration that day, but from the overwhelming beauty of solidarity and the hope that we can end these atrocities. I was moved by the experience of so many in Albuquerque who came to support peace in Congo and elsewhere. This rapidly growing movement has supporters throughout the States and the world, just waiting to be called upon to act.

I watched as another man with his three young children approached the symbolic mass grave to lay down their handmade bones. I have long held onto a vision of a U.S. where families take to the streets in support of human rights. That day I was struck by the reality of my vision, as families gravitated to this Albuquerque block in solidarity with the people of eastern Congo and elsewhere. At that moment, I wished the mothers, fathers, and children I met in eastern Congo just weeks before this event could witness what I did in Albuquerque that Saturday morning. They would have seen people from all walks of life inspired by the collective desire to take action.

For those of us who devote our time and resources to addressing these crises, it filled me with hope to see so many taking a stand in Albuquerque. The movement to end crimes against humanity is growing more rapidly and in more ways than any of us here at Raise Hope for Congo can even grasp.

The overwhelming success of the Preview Installation Project in Albuquerque led One Million Bones to take another step closer to the 2013 installation, by launching the Road to Washington Campaign. This phase of the project aims to lay down 2,500 bones in all 50 state capitals on April 28, 2012 to “symbolize our shared human connection to those all over the world.” So make or donate a bone and raise awareness in your communities about the ongoing atrocities in Congo, Sudan, and Burma.