In 2003, the first genocide of the Millennium began as the Sudan government unleashed massive ethnically directly “scorched earth” violence against black African groups in Darfur; the hallmarks of which were mass murder, rape, torture, starvation, whole scale destruction, and displacement. The world looked away as the United Nations refused to act. The United States and Europe struggled to acknowledge the reality on the ground.  The tide of evil continues to spread a decade later with some four million affected across Sudan’s borderlands in Darfur, Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile.  

Syria is the latest theatre of human tragedy where a staggering seven million people – a third of the population – are victims in a civil war of attrition. Meanwhile, in Congo, the prevalence of sexual and gender based violence is unprecedented, and the complex crisis over resources and power continue unabated. In Burma, violence and ethnic tensions continue to marginalize Rohingya muslims. 

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The world stands-by as these conflicts rage on. In some cases, self –interested economic interests exploit or fuel the deadly conflicts.

After learning about the crisis in Congo and making bones in his classroom, Oscar, a fifth grader, wrote to thank us for coming to his school. He noted “I really liked the [One Million Bones] video that you showed us.  I connect with that because once everyone in this world is gone, our bones will still be here and no one but God will know who was who, just by looking at our bones."

No one but God. After the scores of mass atrocities that have occurred since the end of the Holocaust, we are told again and again by our leaders the complexities of diplomacy are beyond our grasp.  Perhaps it is our leaders who need to see the bones most. As they look out of the windows of the U.S. Capitol and drive in motorcades from the White House, perhaps they will be moved by this appeal from so many ordinary people from all walks of life. 

Bishop Desmond Tutu has joined with One Million Bones and sent a powerful appeal, "The symbol of the bone attests to the impermanence of life, but I believe it embodies so much more. Bones are evidence of a unique individual journey. Each moment of hope and happiness, each dream and passion, and each struggle experienced in a lifetime. But they are also evidence of a collective journey. The story shared and the human experience."

When will our leaders keep faith with their citizens who have vested so much hope and trust in them? In the face of the evidence, we must act.

Natale is an artist and the founder of the One Million Bones Project; Kapila is special representative of Aegis Trust for the Prevention of Crimes Against Humanity.