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 indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.
That is the text of the “Charter for Compassion.”
On February 28, 2008 acclaimed scholar and bestselling author Karen Armstrong received the TED Prize (you can see her TED speech here: http://bit.ly/1yfWMJZ) and made a wish – to help create, launch, and propagate a Charter for Compassion. After much work and the contribution of thousands of people, the Charter was unveiled to the world on November 12, 2009.
“The Charter for Compassion is a document that transcends religious, ideological, and national differences,” the website for the Charter says. “Supported by leading thinkers from many traditions, the Charter activates the Golden Rule around the world.
“The Charter for Compassion is a cooperative effort to restore not only compassionate thinking but, more importantly, compassionate action to the center of religious, moral and political life. Compassion is the principled determination to put ourselves in the shoes of the other, and lies at the heart of all religious and ethical systems.”
The Tri-City Interfaith Council, a local organization that I am active in, is inviting individuals from all faith communities in the Tri-Cities to sign the Charter. You can do this at http://charterforcompassion.org/the-charter). They are inviting Faith Communities to sign the Charter, becoming Partner Organizations. I will be asking the Cabinet to designate Niles Discovery Church as a Partner. And then the Tri-City Interfaith Council will be working on getting Fremont, Union City, and Newark to become Compassionate Cities.
I hope you will give serious consideration to joining this movement.