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Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010 05:43 pm

Charter for Compassion seeks unity

Learn more at 6 p.m. Nov. 12

Imagine that religion became a force for good throughout the world, rather than an institution embroiled in world conflicts that often increase violence and drive people apart. Imagine that we could stand hand and hand together with religious people throughout the world embracing each other’s faiths. But, you say, “My religious beliefs represent the truth and are central to who I am, so I could never accept the dogma of other religions.”

Did you know there is a principle that is embraced by every faith, by every religion, by every moral code? It is often referred to as The Golden Rule, which requires that we use empathy to put ourselves in others’ shoes. We should act toward them as we would want them to act toward us. We should refuse, under any circumstance, to carry out actions which would cause them harm. It is this belief in compassion that unites us all in one faith-based universal truth.

Karen Armstrong, British religious scholar and author of numerous books on comparative religions, is leading an effort to promote a Charter for Compassion (www.charterforcompassion.org), which was launched one year ago, to bring this universal message to people of all faith traditions throughout the world.

On Nov. 12, the first anniversary of the launching of the Charter for Compassion, a local group called Grassroots InterFaith Team (GIFT) is hosting a gathering at Laurel United Methodist Church, 613 W. South Grand Ave., from 6-7:30 p.m. to show and discuss a recording of Karen Armstrong’s speech at Chautauqua, N.Y., in August this year. In this presentation, she expounds on the charter, its impact and her hopes for the influence it may have in furthering world peace. All are invited to attend this free event. Below is the text of the charter.

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 center of our world and put another there, and to honor 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 emphatically 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 center 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.

Don Ecklund is an active member of Grassroots InterFaith Team and Professor Emeritus at Lincoln Land Community College, where he has taught since 1970. 
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