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Karen Armstrong

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Charter For Compassion Makes Surprising Progress

Posted: 03/27/2012 2:12 pm

When the Charter for Compassion was launched in November 2009, I didn't know that by 2012 more than 85,000 people would have affirmed it online or that we would have 150 active partners around the world. I did know that if we were to make the Charter something more than a call to action, we'd have to come up with practical, sustainable, creative and realistic ways to bring compassion back to the center of our world consciousness.

We've made great strides in a surprising number of areas. The Compassionate Cities campaign, which requires a detailed 10-year plan from all applicants, now has more than 70 cities worldwide in the process. Officially compassionate cities already range in location and size from farming town Khairo Dero in Pakistan to the American heartland, Louisville, Ky., where the mayor has is determined to set a world's record in compassionate acts during a week of service in April.

The Charter has been translated for children and around the globe there are already 15 officially compassionate schools and many more using compassionate curricula developed for all age levels. In Pakistan, one of the most active Charter partners, just one of the many extraordinary things they have done is to introduce a compassionate character into the Pakistani Sesame Street, Sim Sim Harama. Pakistan is working closely with Jordan, on the other side of the Gulf, in education efforts. In Jordan one compassionate school is housed in a tent and follows nomads through the Jordanian desert. The two Charter groups plan to expand the number to 5,000 within six years.

One of my personal favorites is the prison reform project that trains prison officers to treat inmates with more respect and care. When it was put into practice in a jail in Washington State, the goal was to decrease violence by 2.5 percent; in fact the project was so successful that violence was decreased by 100 percent. Now the creators are evaluating just what the federal government could save by implementing this program across the United States. Additionally, Louisville Kentucky and Berkeley California are just two of the cities exploring restorative justice programs as part of their cities' compassionate programs.

Among our partners are both scientific and medical researchers. Stanford University's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education is conducting research into mapping compassion in the brain and developing compassion training programs; for adults. In Holland, an impassioned group of medical students have written a charter focused on medical ethics and compassion in healthcare. They are working to make compassion training a required part of the medical school curriculum.

We are connected by the Internet in a fashion as never before. To take advantage of that opportunity we have launched a new website. It will provide practical tools and a meeting place for people from all over the world who are interested in creating and sustaining a more compassionate world. If we all became active upholders of the Golden Rule in our daily lives, in our political lives, in our cities, we could combat the voices the extremisms and hatred that are tearing us apart and endangering us all. We could create a better, more just, more respectful society and world. We can do it and we must do it.

WATCH Karen present the Charter for Compassion and answer the question "What is Religion?":

Watch live streaming video from sfudialogue at livestream.com

 
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