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Friday, November 13, 2009

Charter for Compassion unveiled

Karen Armstrong.
(c) Charter for Compassion.
On Thursday, November 12, 2009, the Charter for Compassion was unveiled - a statement calling for greater compassion, and greater application of the golden rule, throughout the world. It was a statement both from and to people of all religions and no religion. The charter was composed over many months, through a process that began on February 8, 2008.

It was then that former nun, author, and religious historian Karen Armstrong won the Technology, Entertainment, & Design (TED) prize for her presentation. In the presentation, Armstrong called for a renewed commitment to compassion, and expressed her wish to begin a process to formulate a charter for compassion drafted with multi-faith input, and to promote it. By December 18, 2008, over 150,000 people from over 180 nations had submitted suggestions for the charter, and the 'Council of Conscience' began using this input to draft the charter. The council was composed of 18 influential religious figures from multiple faiths and nationalities.

The Charter for Compassion
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 empathically 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 indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

Events at houses of worship and other locations were held all over the world to celebrate the unveiling of the charter, and people are invited to go to the website and also help spread the charter through their own action. People may also sign up to follow news of the charter to see how it progresses.

Charter for Compassion website
TED presentation by Karen Armstrong

As I believe the core of Humanism is compassion, I applaud these efforts and hope the charter can eventually have a profound impact on our overall direction. I have signed up to get further news on the charter and submitted my name as a supporter. Over 10,000 people have already done the same.

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