Charter for Compassion

As a fan of the writer Karen Armstrong -- a former nun who has become one of the leading authorities on religion and its deformation in the modern world -- I was intrigued to learn of an initiative she has just launched: no less than a global charter calling for the restoration of the principle of compassion. It is backed by the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and other world worthies.

There's a danger that such all-inclusive single ideas aimed at uniting the world melt into glibness: is there a hint here of the Enlightenment project, which sought to create a universal "reasonable" religion, and ended up eviscerating all that was best in faith?


Actually I think the Charter -- read it here or watch it being voiced in a clever video -- escapes this danger, because it is written by a woman who deeply respects and understands religion.

One part of it, and I suspect the main motive for the Charter as a whole, is aimed at fundamentalism. The Charter calls for a "return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate".The website invites religious leaders to organize a religious service on the principle.

A wise monk once told me that the two core principles of faith were gratitude and compassion. Gratitude is the realisation that all is gift, and therefore we possess nothing in, of or by ourselves. Compassion is the recognition that we are not the centre of the world and that our fulfillment lies in the service of others.

To reduce faith to a set of principles is reductionism. But to detect in all true faiths these core principles -- that's something different. That's the basis of peaceful coexistence. 



Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Molly Roach
8 years 4 months ago
Karen Armstrong didn't so much write the Charter for Compassion as she initiated and facilitated an international process of reflection on compassion on the internet. The ideas harvested through this process are what constitute the foundation of the final statement that was just released a few weeks ago.
8 years 4 months ago
Come on!
Karen Armstrong's main premise in her latest book is that the only acceptable form of religion is one that keeps reason and faith completely seperate! 
She also states that the myths and symbols of religion are just that - myths.  She states:  “revealed truth was symbolic" and, therefore, esstenially claims that God did not reveal himself to humanity through is son Jesus Christ and is something of the distant, unseen clockmaker.
Armstrong's deism and relativism are the result of onesided scholariship and have a clear agenda - one would thing that a Catholic blogger might see the red flag in her attempt to downplay revealed truth and seperate logos from faith.... or perhaps relativism is the currency this blog deals in?
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 4 months ago
This sounds like a very good idea to me. 
- a "return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate". -
This is really important and needs to be spoken outloud and broadcast as much as possible.
8 years 4 months ago
"return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate"
Of course this would be used to attack churches with traditional views on marriage, priesthood, social issues etc.
Stating that homosexuality (or anything else) is a sin will soon become "hatred."
Joseph Farrell
8 years 4 months ago
All of the valid ideals stated in this document are already part of the Catholic Faith.  It was founded by Christ, endorsed by the Apostles and intended for all peoples.  This one is endorsed by Goldie Hawn... 
8 years 4 months ago
Karen Armstrong suffered from Anorexia, suicide attempts, temporal lobe epilepsy. She failed to defend her dissertaion at Oxford. She never returned to Catholicism nor any other religion; however, she is now qualified to lecture the world on the art of compassion. For is Deeprak Chopra is with her, who can be against her?
MaryMargaret Flynn
8 years 4 months ago
The Gospel of Jesus Chist falls on fertile soil when all can hear and say about Christians "see how they love one another".
The Son rises and shines on all Creation, which is very good and indeed the gift of all that is, including life and consciouness comes from our Creator-the Triune God, "through Him, with Him and in Him".


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

A woman reacts to Pope Francis' final words during the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in this 2015 file photo. The pope will attend the next W.M.F., to be held Aug. 21-26 in Dublin. (CNS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters) 
Pope Francis will attend the ninth World Meeting of Families on August 25 and 26, making him the second pontiff to visit Ireland.
Gerard O’ConnellMarch 21, 2018
The U.N. report documents cases of extrajudicial murders committed by police, illegal house raids and threats and harassment against journalists and social and political activists in Honduras.
Jackie McVicarMarch 20, 2018
An employee wrapped in a blanket talks to a police officer after she was evacuated at a FedEx distribution center where a package exploded on March 20, 2018, in Schertz, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
In their joint statement, the Texas bishops echoed Chief Manley’s appeal to the community. “We ask all people in our dioceses to remain vigilant, and to pray and work for peace,” the bishops said.
Paul StinsonMarch 20, 2018
The challenge of finding families for homeless youth and for those in group shelters is creating the latest flashpoint over competing civil rights claims. (iStock/bodnarchuk)
Catholic Social Services refuses to place foster children in homes headed by same-sex couples; the city of Philadelphia says this policy violates a nondiscrimination law.