A new interfaith project has been launched (13 Nov 2008) to bring all religious groups together, as well as people of no religion, to formulate and endorse a ‘Charter for Compassion’ – a declaration endorsing the ‘Golden Rule’ -  the one that says “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”!
 
The project is the idea of Karen Armstrong, an interfaith advocate and former Catholic nun, who now calls herself a “freelance monotheist”. She has written sympathetically about Islam in the past few years. Her initial idea for the Charter was to involve Christianity, Islam and Judaism. However, she has now, after discussion with interfaith groups, expanded the plan to include various other religions as well as people of no religion.
 
Karen Armstrong quotes the Dalai Lama and Confucius. She maintains that all the major religions have a form of the ‘golden rule’ and that atheists too can adopt this rule. At the same time as highlighting ‘compassion’, she criticises ‘fundamentalism or religious ‘dogma’. She wants the United Nations to assist with the project.
 
The project started after Karen Armstrong won a TEDPrize. She had 20 minutes to put forward her ‘big idea’ as part of the TED Prize awards. Entrants have to explain their idea and winners receive a $100,000 prize to help implement it. Her speech is online – Click Here (see ‘Watch the Talk’). 
 
TED is an organisation promoting ‘ideas’. TED stands for ‘Technology, Entertainment, Design’. Their slogan is “Ideas worth spreading”. They Say “TED “started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader. The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).”

The Charter for Compassion
The ‘Charter for Compassion’ project involves writing a ‘Charter’ through people contributing ideas, and then getting religious groups and religious leaders around the world to endorse it.
For a description of the project and the processes involved on the TEDPrize website– Click Here.
Click Here for the actual ‘Charter for Compassion’ website.

However, the project is NOT just to highlight the need for ‘Compassion’– Karen Armstrong says it is aimed at countering ‘fundamentalism’ and ‘religious dogma’. In her main TEDPrize speech, she says that the charter would tell religious traditions how to interpret their Scriptures that are being ‘misinterpreted’.

Listen to the 3.5 minute intro on the Charter website – Karen Armstrong starts “A militant kind of aggressive religiosity, sometimes called fundamentalism, has grown up in every single one of the major world traditions as a rebellion against this unbalanced world”.

Karen Armstrong has assembled a ‘Council of Sages’ to craft the final ‘Charter for Compassion’ – this includes people of various religions: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Tariq Ramadan (a Muslim and a Professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University and so on) …

She wrote about the project in The Guardian. After outlining all the religions and philosophies that have some form of the ‘Golden Rule’ in their beliefs/teachings, she concluded her article: “Do we need God and/or religion to be compassionate? Of course not. That is why we hope that atheists and agnostics, instead of berating religion (a policy that, as history shows, tends to make religious movements more extreme), will also sign up to the charter, working alongside the religious for a more compassionate world.”

The project has been endorsed by a range of interfaith groups – such as Temple of Understanding, the Three Faiths Forum, Religions for Peace, Cordoba Initiative and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding – as well as the US National Council of Churches, the American Society for Muslim Advancement  and the UN Alliance of Civilization  – Click Here for a full list of Partners.

Comments:

There is no doubt that we need to be compassionate toward others. However, bringing all religions together in this way undermines the central truth of Christianity – where Jesus said ‘I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6)

Striving for peace through world religions in ways such as the ‘Charter for Compassion’ attempts to put all religions on the same level and gives them all the same credibility and equal status.
It undermines the true message of the Christian gospel. If indeed we have the truth, then we need to  speak that truth.
 
Links:
The ‘Charter for Compassion’ website – Click Here
TEDPrize – Karen Armstrong won the TED Prize, and was awarded $100,000 US to implement her ‘wish’. Click Here.
Media report in The Guardian – Click Here.
Read a report about the project from The Age Here
Media Report – The Age: 
Charter Seeks Golden Rule
The Age, Australia – 18 Nov 2008 
“A GLOBAL campaign to apply religion’s “golden rule” — treat others as you would like them to treat you — has been launched by Christians, Jews and Muslims.
The campaigners, claiming that compassion is at the heart of most religions, have launched an online Charter of Compassion and invited atheists and others to join them.
The movement is headed by a “council of sages” of world religious leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, leading European Muslim Tariq Ramadan etc….”

Jenny Stokes
Research Director
Salt Shakers


2 Responses to “The Golden Rule – ‘Charter For Compassion’”

  1. 1 Gary McCaslin

    The central truth of Christianity is not ‘I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6) John is the most symbolic of all the Gospels and we can get in trouble if we start interpreting it so literally. Jesus also said I am the bread of life, I am the vine, I am the Light of the world and more and all only in John.

    Jesus said in the synoptic Gospels: The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself. To me ~ that sounds like we are commanded to show a lot of compassion.

    The truth about God’s compassion was revealed to me as I grew up in America; I am now a Christian minister. But I would never limit the Creator of the Universe to choose to only reveal the truth about life through one man, in one era with no other options. That’s way too tiny of a box for the One I call God.

  2. 2 Millie

    Islam has no compassion for the infidel. Mohammed never showed any. His “forgiveness” of the Meccans (who had done nothing wrong…they only wanted to continue their traditions of freedom of religion) was meaningless. He had taken political charge and soon prohibited all competing religions in his brand new empire. This was not compassion, but repression. Anyone who could not bite his tongue quietly got out of town and as far away from this homocidal maniac as possible!

    They still do!

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