The Charter for Compassion

November 12, 2009

When renowned religious scholar Karen Armstrong won the coveted TED prize, she was asked to make a single wish, one that the TED community would help her achieve.

Her modest request? To unite the world around compassion.

Now, one year later, she's helped us all take one step closer toward making that wish come true.

Today, Armstrong unveiled the Charter for Compassion, a call to restore compassion to the center of our values, our religious traditions, and our daily lives. The release of the Charter is being accompanied by events around the world meant to celebrate and promote acts of compassion. The Greater Good Science Center is honored to be among the groups that have partnered with the Charter to help spread its hugely important work and message.

The Charter itself was developed over the course of a year, soliciting input from people worldwide before a Council of Conscience–composed of thinkers representing the world's major religions–channeled that input into six elegant, effective paragraphs.

You can read the Charter below, and affirm it on the Charter's website. I encourage you to get involved in other ways as well: attend a Charter for Compassion event, spread word of the Charter to others, or just go out of your way to perform an act of compassion–then let others know about it through the Charter's website, so that it might inspire others to follow suit.

The Charter for Compassion:

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.

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