Thursday, February 24, 2011

Seeking peace through reclaiming Compassion

I first noticed the "Charter for Compassion" at the Quaker Meeting House in Ramallah (see

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.
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 indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

I think this is a beautiful document, a necessary and timely project. And I find myself wondering whether conservatives (those who are deeply committed) of the various religions of the world might somehow be against this? Maybe I’m wrong (I hope so). I have the feeling that evangelical Christians, for example, might react against the idea of agreeing and working with those who signed, who represent various Christian and other religious groups (i.e., “how can we work with liberals and people of different religious faiths? What do we have in common?”); and might be suspicious that the language is not their (evangelical) language, and therefore might be a “watering down” or compromising of their convictions.

I find myself wondering, as a follower of Jesus, what he would think of it. Would he embrace these ideas, this document, the principle of joining hands with others (of any religion or none) to work for compassion, for justice, equity and respect? When I put it this way, it seems so obvious. So why would some of us who associate with Jesus by taking the name “Christian,” react negatively to this initiative? 

Why would religious convictions lead some people to initiate and embrace this kind of initiative, and lead others (in the same religions) to be suspicious or reject it?

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