A meeting with meaning

In a moving article from sfgate.com, Bernard S. Alpert, Ira D. Sharlip, Thomas C. Cromwell Assad A. Hassoun, write of their experience as members of a delegation of 30 American physicians representing all specialties of medicine, who met with 350 Iraqi colleagues in Baghdad in mid- February.

It was the first open professional meeting in Iraq in decades, they say. "The conference was heralded as historic, a symbol of rehabilitation after years of corruption, tyranny, conflict and devastation. Today in Iraq, a dynamic tension exists between two social forces proceeding simultaneously: one destructive, one constructive. News regarding the former flows continuously, as events are violent and heartrending. But the perspective of private-sector American citizens without government or media affiliation is conspicuously absent in the intensifying discourse. Thus, we owe it to our fellow citizens to share our experience…

"…The human spirit can overcome seemingly insurmountable hurdles. Our delegation was bound to our Iraqi colleagues by an oath coined by a Greek at a time when their forebears dwelled in civilization's cradle, and our nation was in no one's imagination. We listened as the first voices of open public-policy discussion, including those of dissent, spoke freely after decades of constrained silence. Such positive developments are fragile and require nurturing.

"When the conference ended, each American physician received a plaque from our Iraqi colleagues exclaiming, "A New Hope to Contact the World." We hope the world contacts them."

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