Tag Archive | Charter for Compassion

Human Rights and Compassion

October 16 is the annual Blog Action Day. Since 2007, bloggers have come together to write on an important issue. Past issues have included Poverty, Water, and Climate Change. The issue for 2013 is Human Rights.
I have had a separate page on this blog for the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. I also have a separate page dedicated to the Charter for Compassion. I believe human rights (the Declaration) and compassion (the Charter) are related and complementary. I believe that we need both human rights and compassion to achieve world peace.

Eleanor Roosevelt and Human Rights Declaration

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights came about following the atrocities of World War II. It was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Its drafters said:

Man’s desire for peace lies behind this Declaration. The realization that the flagrant violation of human rights by Nazi and Fascist countries sowed the seeds of the last world war has supplied the impetus for the work which brings us to the moment of achievement here today.

Charter for compassion logo


The Charter for Compassion came about from a TED Prize wish of comparative religion scholar and writer, Karen Armstrong. The Charter was developed by a Council of Conscience and was unveiled on November 12, 2009. Sister Joan Chittester,  a member of the Council, said:

In a world where force is too often the response to differences of opinion, culture and ideas of the divine, compassion is its one universal antidote. This Charter gives spiritual voices the opportunity to unite in this most authentic cry for peace.

I believe the Charter for Compassion is an important document-become-movement for our post 9-11 world.

The Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins thusly:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge, …

The Charter for Compassion begins this way:

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

The Declaration ends:

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

The Charter concludes:

We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

I believe we need to think in terms of both rights and compassion. We need both head and heart (and hands and feet, too) to achieve world peace. We do need rights in terms of law. We need them spelled out, stood upon, and accounted for. However, rights themselves can go only so far. We also need compassion and empathy. We need to think in terms of treating each other as we would wish to be be treated — the Golden Rule.

As I have said before, “I believe that a human being is a human being is a human being with all the rights and privileges thereof.” We should all be treated accordingly — even by nations, including my own.

I Declare World Peace.


Peace Day ~ 2013

Tomorrow, September 21, is the International Day of Peace, a very important day. it is a United Nations designated day “devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.” Accordingly, it is also to be a Day of Ceasefire.

It is to be a day for a prayer, an act, a thought for peace. I believe it can also be a day to take stock, for reflection.

Our world is a mess as it always is. However, there have been important moves of late that are important to my area of concern. Wherever they may lead or not lead, peace talks have been restarted between Israelis and Palestinians. The new president of Iran, Hassan Rohani, a moderate, is reaching out to the West, especially U.S. president, Barack Obama. The two have even corresponded. The United States has at least delayed and maybe cancelled its proposed military strike on Syria. Syria is declaring its chemical weapons and wants to be under the international Chemical Weapons Treaty. I also note that the new pope of the Roman Catholic Church, Francis I, is calling for a kinder, gentler church with an emphasis on the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.

Israeli Apartheid and Occupation of Palestinians with related strife continue. The Syrian Civil War continues, becoming more complicated with fighting between the opposition forces and with a huge outpouring of refugees, not to mention internal displacement. The pope has not changed his mind on women priests and sexual matters. Iran, it is said, will not turn into a liberal democracy. In other words, though baby steps for peace may be taken, difficulties, injustice, strife, and violence do continue.

However, for Peace Day and everyday, I Declare World Peace.

I Declare World Peace


I also encourage the signing of the Charter for Compassion, believing that the practice of compassion and the related Golden Rule, including by nations,  is the way to peace.


Here we are at another anniversary of 9-11–the eleventh to be exact. What have we learned?

It has seemed to me that 9-11 represented the emergency call, 911. I have always believed that it was to be a wake-up call for America’s role in the world, for our foreign policy. I am not sure we have learned much.

The original 9-11 happened on the watch of President George W. Bush. He seemed not to be prepared, foreign policy-wise, and was lead by the nose by his neo-conservative foreign policy team. They almost immediately wanted a war with Iraq, a dream they had held for some time. Instead, out of revenge, we went to Afghanistan and then on to Iraq. We have left blood and havoc in our wake.

Under the watch of President Barak Obama we have done some better. Our combat troops our out of Iraq, although their leaving was negotiated under Pres. Bush. We still have mercenaries there. Most of our troops are due to leave Afghanistan in 2014. I am not proud of our actions regarding Libya. Civil rights and human rights have not fared very well under either president.

I am not convinced of American exceptionalism. We have done too much damage in the world at large and have not had the best track record in our own country–slavery, segregation, and our treatment of Native Americans being prime examples.

I am also not convinced that we have to act mainly out of our own national interest. What about the international interest, the interest of the world-at-large, of the planet? Wouldn’t that be in our national interest? How about interdependence?

All of the religions and ethical traditions and movements seem to have some form of what is called the Golden Rule: Treat others as one would like to be treated or, converesly, Do not treat others as one would not want to be treated. Most of us seem to think that this rule speaks to individuals. Yes, primarily, it does, but what about nations? Should the rule not also apply to them? I believe it should.

Many individuals have signed the Charter for Compassion that is based on the Golden Rule. There are even Compassionate Cities. Some countries are becoming involved. I hope that more and more sign on in affirmation and live it out.

I Declare World Peace. Peace is the way.

Attack on Sikhs: Tolerance and Intolerance

On August 5, 2012 a mass shooting took place at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, next to Milwaukee by a male white supremacist. Wade Michael Page killed four people, including a responding police officer, and wounded four. After being shot in the stomach by a police officer, he fatally shot himself in the head.

Sikhs.org defines Sikhism this way:

A way of life and philosophy well ahead of its time when it was founded over 500 years ago, The Sikh religion today has a following of over 20 million people worldwide. Sikhism preaches a message of devotion and remembrance of God at all times, truthful living, equality of mankind, social justice and denounces superstitions and blind rituals. Sikhism is open to all through the teachings of its 10 Gurus enshrined in the Sikh Holy Book and Living Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

Sikhism, a monotheistic religion that began in the Punjab region in what is now Pakistan, was founded by Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539).

In his 2011 book, Toward a True Kinship of Faiths, His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote:

Though a follower of Kabir [a Muslim], Guru Nank studied the sacred Vedas at the feet of many Hindu masters and went on pilgrimage to Mecca. One day at the age of thirty-one, as he was bathing in a river, Guru Nanak mysteriously disappeared. Up on his reappearance three days later, he proclaimed that God is neither Hindu nor Muslim, and that he himself would follow God’s way. Combining the essence of the two great religions he had encountered, Hinduism and Islam, he began new teachings that came to be known as Sikhism. (page 30)

Many male Sikhs do not cut their hair and wear turbans. They often have beards. Following 9-11, they have often been mistaken for Muslims and have been discriminated against or attacked as “terrorists.” Many have South Asian skin-coloring and appearance.

It is ironic that members of a religion that specifically preaches equality of mankind and social justice should be attacked by one so intolerant, but the intolerant do not seem to be able to tolerate the tolerant.

It was both ironic and coincidental to receive in my family’s mailbox about the time of the attack at the Sikh temple, the print edition of the Christian Science Monitor that contained in its Difference Maker series an article about Arno Michaels, a former white supremacist, who changed and took a different path, one of compassion and love against hate. Ironically, also, he grew up around the area of the attack, near Milwaukee. About the time of the birth of his daughter, he began seeing things differently and started to change. He has written a self-published book called, Life After Hate, began an organization of that name, and under that organization, has an  outreach program, Kindness Not Weakness, that talks about nonviolence. Michaels especially focuses on youth.

On August 14, PRI’s The World radio program featured an interview with Muslim American rapper, Zaki Syed, who posted a video shortly after the attack on the Sikh temple as a tribute to the victims and calling for love, tolerance, and understanding. Syed had been thirteen at the time of 9-11 and had been befriended by Sikh schoolmates. He performed his rap in a Sikh temple in Sacramento where he is a college student. (The videos may be viewed here.)

On Saturday, August 17, the Louisville, KY Courier-Journal.com published a letter from the President of the the Sikh Society of Kentucky that is based in Louisville.  Daya Singh Sandhu expressed gratitude for the community’s support following the tragedy and explained Sikhism. Also that day, Courier-Journal.com published in its faith blog about the Sikh community and a service in their temple.

The day before, on August 16, Courier-Journal.com published a letter from an African-American woman who was a retired bank executive. Deborah Turner wrote that when she was walking home in her middle-class neighborhood with her groceries on a beautiful day she was suddenly yelled at with the “N” word by a young white male in an SUV. This was the first time this had happened to her.

Writing that she would like to say several things to the young man who yelled at her, she ended her letter this way:

Finally, I would say to the parents of this young man: Please remind your son (and any other children with whom you come in contact) that they have control over the decisions they make and the choices made determine the path of each of their lives. I am aware that sometimes our visible leaders do not set an appropriate example, but as parents, even if we are challenged in our day to day experiences, we must convince our children that the future is theirs to make with it what they will.

There is no reason for yelled epithets on a Sunday morning toward an old woman who can do nothing for or to them. Instead, get out and put energy into working to make the world the best it can be for all of us.

Yes, we all need to put energy into working to make the world the best it can be for all of us. In that light, I would like to encourage readers, if they have not done so, to please affirm the Charter for Compassion.