Love Transcends: Transforming Compassion into Action

"When you have these values of compassion, nothing can stop you."

Those are the words of Marguerite Barankitse, an extraordinary humanitarian - and an extraordinary woman - unafraid to walk directly into zones of war, disease and conflict to give the children robbed of their families the opportunity to live.

"The love and affection of the workers inspired me to put my life at risk for their safety, and the smiles and prayers of these slaves after they are freed is the source of my resolve."

In the hollow faces of Pakistani slaves, Syeda Ghulam Fatima found a calling to save the next generation from the inhumanity of slavery, and in the process, has helped 80,000 men, women and children reclaim their basic right of freedom and dignity.

This weekend in Yereven, Armenia the global humanitarian community is gathered to honor Marguerite and Syeda, along with Dr. Tom Catena, the sole doctor at Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains in Sudan, and Father Bernard Kinvi, a priest and mission leader in the war torn Central African Republic. These four exceptional humanitarians - the four finalists for the inaugural Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity - are a poignant reminder of the strength of the human spirit.

The most basic human emotions have enormous power. Indeed, both Marguerite and Syeda were inspired to stand up to injustices by one of the most basic human emotions - love. Their compassion gave them strength to reclaim humanity.

And Marguerite and Syeda are not alone.

All around the world - in the face of injustice, political turmoil, armed conflict and gender violence - women are energized by a common desire to build a brighter future. They are moved by a desire to secure fundamental freedoms for future generations. Women are rising up and their collective compassion has the power to spur change.

But sadly, this compassion is not shared broadly enough. Today, there is a dangerous imbalance between what people feel and what they are willing to do in practice. The first annual Humanitarian Index, released Friday reveals a "compassion gap" in a public that sympathizes with the vulnerable, but, ignorant to the magnitude of their suffering, won't personally act.

That is, unless they are personally motivated by real individuals and real stories like those of this weekend's four finalists.

These stories transcend rhetoric. They engender a sense of responsibility in all of us and encourage the individual to ask not only "what would I do," but "what can I do" - the question that really matters.

It's up to us to tell these stories - to inspire and empower others, especially young women, to rise up and turn their compassion into action.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, a new global humanitarian award which is being presented during a weekend of events in Armenia April 22-24. The series aims to recognize the exceptional impact the Prize finalists' actions have had on advancing humanitarian causes, and raise awareness of the weekend's humanitarian discussions, the Aurora Dialogues. For more information, visit www.auroraprize.com.