The Moral Imperative

Margot Brinn and Karryn Ramanujan from the Ithaca Baha'i community

The Syrian civil war has killed almost half a million people. Money donated to help Syrians often can’t reach them.  The medical infrastructure in Syria is in terrible shape. Victims of the war as well as people with cancer and other diseases are unable to get the help they need.

The Ithaca Coalition for Unity and Cooperation in the Middle East (ICUCME) dedicated its first Dinner Conversation of the year to raise money for a hospital that has been able to help Syrians. In the past few years 2,500 Syrians with serious medical problems have clandestinely crossed the border into Israel to receive medical treatment at Ziv Hospital.

While that is a drop in the bucket to what is needed, it expresses ICUCME core values of human-to-human connection, since officially Syria and Israel are still at war. Yet even enemy combatants – men wounded fighting in battles, not just women and children — are being treated at Ziv with the same level of care as Israeli Arabs and Jews are given. The money raised at ICUCME’s Dinner Conversation will go towards supporting the free medical treatment the Syrians are receiving.

After partaking of a delicious pot-luck, the Oct. 3 Dinner Conversation began with Margot Brinn and Karryn Olson-Ramanujan from the Bahai’i community offering a brief introduction to Baha’i history and beliefs. They then distributed quotes for discussion from the Baha’u’llah, who founded the Baha’i in Iran in the 19th century, and explained the technique Baha’i use when considering such passages.

The conversation then segued into a larger consideration of the evening’s theme of the moral imperative. One question discussed – should you offer aid to your enemies who might then hurt you? – inspired one participant to share the Baha’u’llah quote she’d been discussing: “When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love.”

Said her discussion partner: You should offer aid to your enemy, because by showing compassion to someone who might hurt you in the future, you could potentially change that future.

Participants also explored their own moral beliefs and the family and social context in which they were formed. They then considered how to balance one’s own well-being with moral obligation. But for one participant, a retired math professor, there was no possible conflict: by being true to one’s own moral soul, helping others was on behalf of one’s own well-being.

After the discussion, participants used glue, scissors, stickers, and felt shapes to create get-well cards for Syrian children being treated at Ziv Hospital. Said one card-maker, “I just want those kids to know someone in Ithaca cares.”

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