• Reports
  • November 15, 2009
  • 5 minutes read

Religious online call to embrace compassion

Religious online call to embrace compassion

Charter for Compassion urges embracing cultural and religious diversity, shunning violence.

SAN FRANCISCO – Religious leaders from around the world joined a former nun on Thursday to unveil a Charter for Compassion that urges people to embrace understanding and shun violence.

A charterforcompassion.org website that sprang from a wish Karen Armstrong was granted in 2008 at a prestigious Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Conference went live Thursday.

“It requires you in your own sphere to work for a more compassionate world,” Armstrong told said. “The terrorists and extremists are all highly organized and networked; we must do the same.”

The charter’s growing list of “affirmers” includes the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Queen Noor of Jordan, Grand Mufti of Egypt Sheikh Ali Gomaa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu; author Sir Ken Robinson, and musician Paul Simon.

The charter is approximately 330 words, calling on everyone to “restore compassion to the center of morality and religion” and to foster appreciation for cultural and religious diversity.

The charter also urges a “return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate.”

Swiss-Egyptian Muslim intellectual Tariq Ramadan is one of a group of 18 theologians and philosophers who helped write the final text.

“We cannot expect the Charter to do the job – it’s a reference text helping people to come together and say if we agree on that, at least we have common values when it comes to justice, the dignity of human beings, the dignity of people,” said Ramadan at the Dutch launch of the initiative in Amsterdam.

“Compassion is not about pity, it’s not about only caring for people. It’s about intellectual empathy, it’s about justice, it’s about living together. The world today, as Karen says, is in dire need of that,” he added.

A TED member with computer design prowess helped build a charter website where people can learn about the grassroots campaign or universal compassion, share the message and collaborate on taking action toward the goal.

“A launch is only the beginning of a voyage and not the end,” Armstrong said. “Now people have their own website where they can organize and we can make it a movement. We have to go to work to put the charter into focus.”

The website is also intended to serve as a venue for groups or individuals who have been working in isolation to collaborate as an online community.

The home page includes a box where people share word of compassionate deeds big or small.

“The charter is a summons to action, it is not just a feel good thing,” Armstrong said. “It calls upon people to find creative ways of implementing… to work energetically for the good of humanity in one’s own community.”

A simple way to begin, she added, is to stifle nasty off-the-cuff comments.

Religious leaders worldwide helped craft the charter, which was memorialized in plaque form by designer Yves Behar and will be hung at secular spots in cities such as New York, Cairo, London, Ramallah, Melbourne, and Buenos Aires.

The charter is posted online in seven languages, with the list to be expanded.

“In the media, teaching, banking, or bringing up children one has to think of the passionate ethos,” Armstrong said. “All day and every day to put yourself in the shoes of somebody else.”