The Global Citizen is a joint project of New Voices and the American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Throughout the year, a group of former AJWS volunteers will offer their take on global justice, Judaism and international development. Opinions expressed by Global Citizen bloggers do not necessarily represent AJWS.
My friend Marcus wears a whistle. Not being an eccentrically dressed person, Marcus’s whistle quickly begs the question, “So, uh, whatâ€™s up with that huge whistle?”. “The whistle is my protest,” he always says. People are intrigued. He goes on, “There is the largest and bloodiest war ever in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) happening right now, and children are being used as human shields, armed with nothing but whistles. The war is over resources that benefit us, and we need to do something about it.” And just like that, somebody who would not have otherwise ever asked Marcus about what is going on in the world, or what he cares about, just became aware. In a grocery line, in class, at a bar or party the person who has no reason to know now does.
This guerilla activism is the genius behind the non-profit Falling Whistles. Founder Sean Carroso began the organization just one-and-a-half years ago. After travelling with TOMS shoes to South Africa, he set out to “get as lost as possible” and ended up in the DRC. After much maneuvering Sean and his crew found themselves in a camp for child soldiers. With no weapons, they learned, the children were sent to the front lines and instructed to make enough noise with their whistles to warn others or failing that, to receive the bullets with their bodies and create a barrier for other soldiers. Moved and changed by what he’d seen, Sean found himself writing to everyone he knew. This war, he soon learned, was being fought over mineral resources that go into electronics that we in the western world drive the demand for – our computers and cell phones. His message was forwarded by his friends and family with the urgency it was written and soon reached over a million people.
Sean and the crew of Falling Whistles are not the only ones to speak out about this war. Established aid organizations such as American Jewish World Service have acknowledged this as urgent. Just recently New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof relayed a chilling account from the ground in the Congo.
“The brutal war here in eastern Congo has not only lasted longer than the Holocaust but also appears to have claimed more lives. A peer- reviewed study put the Congo war’s death toll at 5.4 million as of April 2007 and rising at 45,000 a month. That would leave the total today, after a dozen years, at 6.9 million.” Kristof says. He goes on to describe acts of the brutal war that are powerful and upsetting in only a way the most chilling acts of humanity are.
“This isn’t about me, or even Falling Whistles as an organization,” said Carasso last week, speaking at a benefit in Portland, “This is about our generation stepping up to say ‘no more’. We need to tell as many people as possible and not take no for an answer. This can’t be ignored anymore.”
This is a holocaust, and I would have never known had Marcus not worn his whistle and invited my curiosity. Guerilla activism and ending these wars being fought for our cheap electronics are the imperatives of our day. I invite you to step up to the plate – buy a whistle, forward these links, program an event at your school, or even just share the story (I invite you to email me personally if you are interested in the cause). Be a whistle blower for peace. Tikkun Olam.
*a note: I realize I did not speak about the specific work Falling Whistles does on the ground. I encourage you to visit their website and learn more http://www.fallingwhistles.com/home.php or find them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Falling-Whistles/66044866468
Other resources and info about the DRC