Monday, December 28, 2009

Charter for Compassion

I learned from one of my favorite bloggers, Baraka, that the Charter for Compassion has become a reality. It was the wish expressed by Karen Armstrong when she was selected as a TED Prize Winner:
I wish that you would help with the creation, launch and propagation of a Charter for Compassion, crafted by a group of leading inspirational thinkers from the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and based on the fundamental principles of universal justice and respect.
I remember reading about the process in a fantastic post written by my friend Mike two years ago.

The Charter for Compassion was unveiled on November 12th and is available for all to sign and affirm, online and in their lives. I have signed it because it resonates so much with my spiritual practice that seeks justice and compassion (to feel with) on both a systemic level and a personal level (the second is harder than the first, for me).

In Mike's post, he writes about immigration but his words are applicable to foster care or education or any number of societal ills that are perpetuated by institutions. He writes:
Would you say "Well the law's the law," or would you say "Laws can change, and this one needs to, because justice and compassion ought never to be opposed to one another"?

I think Karen Armstrong says something similar when she writes:
"I say that religion isn’t about believing things. It’s ethical alchemy. It’s about behaving in a way that changes you, that gives you intimations of holiness and sacredness.”
It seems to me she is saying that whatever unseen thing into which we put our faith is important to each of us as fuel for our spirit but what we do with that energy is even more important. And no one would claim that we are called to act selfishly when we experience these intimations of holiness and sacredness.

I am excited to see that one of the paragraphs of the Charter addresses our participation in systems of injustice like sweatshops and harmful farming techniques.
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.
This is the area where I am working the hardest on a personal level, committing to buying organic and fair-trade food(chocolate is a recent tough addition to the list) and buying all of my clothing second-hand or from scrupulous vendors. I will think about how I can live more deeply in accordance with this Charter, which I think accurately describes what God wants for my life.

Please learn more about the Charter below and here and then consider spreading the word to your networks.

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