Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Charter for Compassion

In February of 2008, Karen Armstrong made a very big wish. It came true this month.

Her wish was to assemble the thoughts from people around the world and to have global religious leaders develop a "Charter For Compassion" that would inspire action and change.

Karen Armstrong, a widely published author, an ex-nun, a feminist, and an activist for interfaith respect and dialogue received the TED Award. The TED Award is given to someone with a great world-changing idea. It provides $100,000 to make that wish come true.

150,000 people from over 180 countries participated over six weeks in collecting opinions.

The Council of Conscience, then met to frame the charter. They were those religious leaders assembled to create the charter from the input they had received, and to strategize about how the Charter and what it stands for could be spread and implemented around the world.

And here it is. The video speaks the text of The Charter for Compassion (which is found beneath it.)

A call to bring the world together…

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and emphatically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.


The words that really sung for me are "any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate". I want to sing Halleluia until the stars dance.

Backers of the Charter (and there were 21205 as of the moment I write this, with the Charter just having been launched a few days ago), include some names you know -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Paul Simon, Sister Jon Chichester, The Dalai Lama, Isabel Allende, Peter Gabriel, Forest Whitaker, Queen Noor of Jordan, Quincy Jones and many more from all traditions.

They emphasize that the point of the Charter is to ACT as well as think, and they provide a place to post compassionate acts and to read about the acts of others.

The Charter for Compassion site states:

As we close a decade marked by war, help us usher in a decade focused on compassion.

The names of all affirmers on December 31 will be sent along with the Charter for Compassion to 5 world leaders whose countries are engaged in conflict.

Add your name today. Share the Charter with your networks. Each additional name makes the compassionate voice a more potent force in the world. Let us make the silent majority a challenge to extremism and hatred.

We all know that times have been difficult lately. All of us feel the lack of compassion in the world. Many of us have been heartsick at the mis-use of religion to justify acts lacking in compassion. And here, at this effort, we can see something hopeful -- something we can do -- something real that we can join to help change things. It will take more than filling in a form and thinking -- it will take action.

I signed the form. You may or may not wish to -- your choice. But if anyone would like to, I would enjoy the company. When this document is put before world leaders at the end of the year, in addition to the over 100 organizations supporting it, I'd like my name on it.

What say you?

May you all have a compassionate week.


Karen Armstrong herself, in an article in the Huffington Post about the Charter, said, "At this moment of history, we have a choice: we can either emphasize those aspects of our traditions, be they religious or secular, which breed hatred, chauvinism and exclusion, or we can bring to the fore those that stress the importance of compassion and the Golden Rule."

simulposted at BlogHer.com


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