Charter for Compassion, a call to bring the world together…

Charter for Compassion, a call to bring the world together… An impression by Alide Roerink, 12 November 2009

The Charter for Compassion – an initiative of Karen Armstrong and the newly created Council of Conciounce – was launched on 12 November 2009. Events and gatherings were organised in different cities around the world to present the Charter. In the Netherlands it was Awraham Soetendorp, member of the Council of Conciounce and of the Earth Charter Commission, who presented the Charter for Compassion. Other speakers at the launch in the Netherlands were philosopher and Worldconnector Tariq Ramadan and Worldconnectors co-chair Herman Wijffels. Both Soetendorp and Wijffels stressed the relevance of the Charter for Compassion in relation to the Earth Charter (2000). Compassion is part of the Earth Charter, and now the Charter of Compassion deepens this important common value. Tariq Ramadan highlighted the critical meaning of compassion in the effort of self education and the need to improve ourselves as humans continuously. Ramadan translated compassion as ‘intelligent empathy with the hearth and the mind’. Herman Wijffels stated that the value of compassion is an important base and fundament for the urgently needed changes we need to realise. To shift from a focus on ourselves as humans and our environmentally and socially harmful practices, to a new global society which should be based on a ‘recycling economy’ and ‘triple P governance structure’ taking into account consequences of all our actions for people, planet and the economy.

Much of the notion of compassion is embedded in the Earth Charter and more specifically principle 2 of the Earth Charter states: “Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion and love.” Therefore this new Initiative reinforces the work of the Earth Charter Initiative from this particular perspective.

“The Charter for Compassion is not simply a statement of principle”, Karen Armstrong explained at the presentation in Washington DC. “It is above all a summons to creative, practical and sustained action to meet the political, moral, religious, social and cultural problems of our time. We cannot afford to be paralysed by global suffering. We have the power to work together energetically for the wellbeing of humanity, and counter the despairing extremism of our time. Many of us have experienced the power of compassion in our own lives; we know how a single act of kindness and empathy can turn a life around. History also shows that the action of just a few individuals can make all the difference. In a world that seems spinning out of control, we need such action now.”

Click here for reading the reflections from Rabbi Soetendorp on this.

The Charter for Compassion reads as follows:

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.

You can endorse the charter or upload your act of compassion on the website: