Friday, January 28, 2011

The Charter for Compassion

It’s very simple and maybe even obvious but that’s kind of what I like about it.    I think most people would agree with the general spirit of the charter even with all our diversity of opinion and belief.  The Charter for Compassion was the idea of author Karen Armstrong.  She won the TED prize in 2008 and got to make a wish from the organization (Technology Entertainment Design, TED).  So she asked for help in promoting and propagating a Charter of Compassion.

The website for the charter is a place you can go to read it and endorse it if you like.  Over 60,000 people have affirmed it so far.  The website is

Here is the text of the charter:

“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.”
I think that puts it very well.  Compassion is essentially what it’s all about.  Compassion is more than just feeling sorry for someone.  “Com-passion” means to feel a union with another person.  In my understanding of Christian theology this is the most important teaching we have.  It’s akin to the Greek agape, or love, Paul spoke of to the Corinthians.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.  And if I have prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away all my goods, and if I give my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing.  Love suffers long; is kind; love is not envious; love does not vaunt itself; is not puffed up; does not behave unseemly.  It does not seek its own; is not provoked; does not keep record of wrong; it does not rejoice in evil, but rejoices in truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.”  (1 Corinthians 13:1-8)