Today’s Editorial November 26: A time for Caymanian compassion

Several days ago a cyclone slammed into Bangladesh killing thousands of people. Incredibly, however, the worst may be yet to come for the survivors.

Many thousands of lives now hang in the balance as relief agencies try to deliver water and food to them. ‘We have nothing here, no home, hardly any food and no clean water,’ a survivor told the BBC.

‘It is very difficult for our children,’ added a crying grandmother. ‘They are really suffering.’

Aid workers fear a cholera outbreak could claim numerous lives. Unknown numbers of people are homeless and jobless.

Bangladesh is on the other side of the world, far from the Cayman Islands and our worries. But we might ask ourselves if that is reason enough to ignore the cries of that grandmother and the others who trying to cope in the aftermath of a terrible storm. After Hurricane Ivan’s visit in 2004, one would think that Caymanian empathy would be strong enough to disallow those cries to fall on deaf ears. Yes, Bangladesh is far away and we share no obvious connection with that country’s people, at least none beyond the most basic. They are, after all, human beings and not even geography, culture or language differences should override our concern for others in need.

Yes, we have problems here in the Cayman Islands. But traffic jams, the high cost of living, squabbles between politicians seem less important than thousands of children dying because they have to drink filthy water. Still, some people in our society maintain that Caymanian compassion should stop cold at our borders. They are wrong.

Remember one of the most common complaints heard after Ivan? Many Caymanians were disappointed and angered by what they saw as a lack of concern and action from the UK government and its people. Still today, more than three years later, one often hears the same complaint. But wait, some say that ‘charity begins at home’ and we should ‘take care of our own first’. If this is true, however, shouldn’t the UK keep it charity at home before it sends aid to us when the next Category 4 or 5 hurricane strikes us?

It is easy to hide behind excuses when others need help. Too easy. Caymanians who are brave enough and decent enough to pause and reflect on the merciless horror now being felt by thousands who were devastated by a storm are likely to see the moral action required of them.

We may not know the people of Bangladesh. We may not know much about their culture. Even after our experience with Ivan, we don’t know their level of their pain and fear. We do know, however, that they are neighbours in need. Isn’t that enough?

The Red Cross and UNICEF probably are the most efficient and reliable organizations at work in Bangladesh right now. They would make worthy recipients for a donation from all Caymanians who know better than to ignore the cries of those in need.

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