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Charter for Compassion Announced

Writer Karen Armstrong Urges Respect for Others
as Fundamental Solution for Conflict Resolution

  • Working to alleviate suffering.
  • Putting others instead of yourself at the center of the world.
  • Respecting the inviolable sanctity of every human.
  • Three concepts that are easy to understand, but that are rarely put into action during clashes and conflicts.

    Karen Armstrong took these three ideas and placed them at the top of a document she has called the "Charter for Compassion." The author of 20 books on world religions, Armstrong has boiled down a lifetime of work and the suggestions of thousands in her network to compose 307 words on what she considers an ethical core.

    "In every single tradition I have studied I am pushed back to the notion of compassion, which is the litmus test of spirituality, which is the test by which we measure our commitment," Armstrong told an audience in Washington, D.C., just before she released the text of the Charter.

    The Charter grew out of the 2008, $100,000 prize from TED, a non-profit supporting work in the fields of Technology, Entertainment and Design. Armstrong was chosen because of her work to advance religious reconciliation at a time of increasing strife among the the world's religions, said Chris Anderson, curator of TED.

    For a year Armstrong spearheaded a collaborative effort of lay people as well as religious and civic leaders who shared their thoughts on what compassion means for contemporary challenges and problems. More than 150,000 people from about 180 countries contributed ideas via the Web. Recently Armstrong, working with a Council of Conscience and other colleagues, synthesized their thinking and composed the Charter. It outlines the characteristics of compassion and calls upon people and societies to employ it.

    Armstrong pointed out that too often religion stands in the way of respect for others. "We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately," the Charter reads, "and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion."

    Her Charter calls for the return of compassion to the center of morality and religion.

    "It is what brings us into our relation with what we call God, Nirvana, Brahman, Tao," Armstrong said at the launching of the Charter. "Each of these traditions has developed its own version of the Golden Rule." She made her remarks at the National Press Club on Nov. 12, 2009.

    A recitation of the Charter for Compassion.

    The following videos record the views of religious, artistic and civic figures who worked with Armstrong in the development of the Charter.
    Filmed on Nov. 12, 2009 at the National Press Club by

    Chris Anderson is the curator of TED, which granted Armstrong a $100,000 prize to further her work.

    Armstrong answers a question about what her next steps, calling for a Rapid Response Team
    and other grassroots organizations to manifest the ideas of the Charter.

    Salman Ahmad is a Sufi musician from Pakistan.

    Rabbi David Saperstein is the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

    The Rev. Peter Storey is a former Methodist Bishop from South Africa
    and was a leader of the anti-apartheid movement.

    The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell is the Director of the Dept. of Religion at Chatauqua Institution.

    Amy Novogratz is the Prize Director for TED.

    The following videos are from the Charter for Compassion Web presence. They describe how the Charter was put together.