A Quest to Unite Religious Communities: The Charter for Compassion

In a world of fragmentation and religious division, a unique and much anticipated document will be released to the world on November 12, after months of collaborative work online and offline by diverse religious leaders and great thinkers.

In February 2008, Karen Armstrong, a former Roman Catholic nun who refers to herself as a “freelance monotheist”, won the TED prize, which is awarded annually to three exceptional individuals who each receive $100,000, and more importantly, the granting of “One Wish to Change the World”.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design and started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become even broader.

logoKaren Armstrong who is considered as one of the most provocative, original thinkers on the role of religion in the modern world, said her wish was to create a Charter for Compassion, a document about the core shared value of every world religion and moral code: the “Golden Rule”. This is how she described it to the TED community:

“I wish that you would help with the creation, launch and propagation of a Charter for Compassion, crafted by a group of leading inspirational thinkers from the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and based on the fundamental principles of universal justice and respect.”

A collaborative process

Global participation in an open writing process was the critical starting point for the creation of the Charter for Compassion. The submissions shared began a conversation that continues as the Charter is finalized and launched at http://www.charterforcompassion.org. People from all over the world have contributed to this Charter; it transcends religious, ideological and national difference; it has been composed by leading thinkers from many traditions with passion, insight, intellectual conviction and hope.

The Council of Sages for the Charter for Compassion includes notable thinkers and faith representatives such as Sheikh Ali Gomaa (the Grand Mufti of Egypt), Rabbi David Saperstein (Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism), Sadhvi Chaitanya (spiritual leader of the Arsh Vijnaya Mandiram ashram), and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (retired Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa).

Charter for Compassion Trailer from TED Prize on Vimeo.

Among the Charter’s partners around the world include TED, Tanenbaum Center, World Council of Religious Leaders, the Al-Ghazzali Center, The Institute of Religion, Culture and Peace among others.

Across the world more than 170 events are planned to help launch the Charter for Compassion (You can host your own too). The unveiling of Charter has already sparked lots of enthusiastic support followed by conversations across the global blogosphere.

Perspectives on the Charter for Compassion

Malaysian Journalist Niki Cheong wrote in his blog, “Malaysians were invited to stop by a studio to record what compassion means to them to create a viral video to promote Nov 12 – today – when The Charter of Compassion will be unveiled.”

Aizat Faiz blogged about his experience of participating in the filming of the Malaysian Chapter of the Charter for Compassion. Rantings by MMs reported that in Malaysia ‘the launching of the charter will be officiated by YAB Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. In the afternoon there will be a youth panel followed by an interfaith panel.’

Jewish and interfaith Tikkun Daily in the United States urged, “all should take the opportunity to remind those around you of the power of compassion and to think of ways to use compassion to transform and heal the world.”

Sujato's blog about Buddhism wrote: ‘We all need to do our bit to use religion to respond creatively and constructively to our environment, making it a force for helping rather than hurting, fostering love and inclusiveness, not alienation and ignorance.’

360 Digital Influence, a blog of the Ogilvy Public Relations firm, explores the question, ‘if Compassion is “viral”?’

Brian Carnell in the United States wrote some counter arguments about the Golden Rule at the center of the Charter, calling it “wishy washy feel good nonsense” that doesn't help solve “real moral dilemmas”.


  • Dr. Brooks, (ret.)

    Why are people always seeking to unite in one big happy group? If all would live the Golden Rule, the world would not be in the mess it is in. So underneath the surface of all this cry for a united world religion lurks a sinister plot, which has never worked well for the human family anywhere at any time. There is always one individual or group that wants to rule over everybody else, and it lurks within all these dreams of utopia. There can be no utopia until everybody leaves everybody else alone to live a life of self government, interfering with noone, i.e., each keeping his/her nose out of everybody else’s business.

  • Jennifer Mc Cleary

    Obviously, the idea of “everybody leaving everybody alone” is ludacris. Peace, as an ideal, will never be actuallized because “bad people” are birthed every second. No matter how hard we try to avoid each other, we can’t, because we live in an increasingly globalized world. Avoiding each other, in fact, will only breed further misunderstanding and hatred towards what we don’t understand, and that is the point! I don’t think the point is to “unite in one big happy group.” The point is to come to a mutual understanding so that bloodshed on all sides can cease… or reduce at best. It’s not about “keeping our noses out,” it’s about pointing out our similarities and looking to each other for support and guidance for the maintenance/creation of a better world.

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