Today, the culmination of more than a year's work was unveiled as the Charter for Compassion was officially introduced in Washington, D.C. The Charter is the direct result of Karen Armstrong's 2008 TED Prize wish to establish a document that would define anew the ancient principles of justice and respect for all human beings.
I am asking all our Huffington Post readers to go to the Charter website Thursday, CharterForCompassion.org, to read the Charter and join people around the world in affirming its principles and goals. I hope you will then share the Charter with your friends, family and colleagues as you find ways to incorporate its principles into your daily lives. The Charter's focus is the concept central to most world religions and moral codes: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
"The Golden Rule calls us to look into our own hearts, discover what gives us pain, and then refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever, to inflict that pain upon anybody else," Armstrong says. "If we wish to create a viable world order, we must try to implement the Golden Rule globally, treating all peoples -- even those who seem far removed from us -- as we would wish to be treated ourselves."
The last few months have been filled with horrific acts, often far away and distant from our everyday lives. Car bombs in Pakistani shopping markets and outside schools have blown up children, mothers, fathers and friends. Starvation once again stalks Ethiopia and massive floods in Vietnam have wiped out whole villages in minutes. Finding ways to connect to the pain and needs of others, even those whose lives are but flickers on a television or computer screen, means recommitting ourselves to lives of compassion, at home and in our global community.
As Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, Director of the Department of Religion at the Chautauqua Institution and a member of the Charter's Council of Conscience, puts it: "Throughout the ages, the sages in their wisdom have called us to lives of compassion as the way to peace. In a hungry, hurting and war-weary world we must respond to that call with a passionate YES."
During this weekend, many religious services and events world wide will feature the Charter and its call to action. Special events are planned for New York, Washington, Beirut, London and Cairo, as well as in Australia, Malaysia, Brazil, India and many other locations. Fifty influential world affirmers will be announced, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sheikh Ali Gomaa the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Swami Dayananda, Bishop John Bryson Chane, Prince Pavlos of Greece, Queen Noor of Jordan, Deepak Chopra, Ali Asani, Kenneth Cole, Paul Simon and Goldie Hawn.
Armstrong, an internationally respected religious scholar and ecumenical leader, originally sought to draw together thinkers and leaders from the world's three Abrahamic faiths -- Christianity, Judaism and Islam. That goal soon broadened to include all world faiths and faith communities. During the Charter-writing period, people from over 100 countries contributed thousands of ideas, suggestions and stories. The Council of Conscience then wrote the final version of the Charter in February. Last week, TED.com posted a special compassion page featuring six talks on the Charter's principles.
It is our hope that after reading the Charter, affirming its principles and sharing those principles with our families and communities, we will again find a place for the strong and clear voices of compassion to speak and to be heard. Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, a Council of Conscience member and Rabbi of the Reform Jewish Community of The Hague, sums up the Charter's goal simply: "Compassion is not hereditable. It can and therefore must be taught. The teaching of compassion, the exercise of the soul, will open the heart. And then nothing will be impossible."
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