Thursday, October 22, 2009

Charter puts a new face on the Golden Rule

Charter puts a new face on the Golden Rule
Karen Armstrong and Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Cape Town/London - On 27 September at the Vancouver Peace Summit, amongst
some of the world’s most well-known peace-makers–including Nobel Prize
winners and internationally-acclaimed authors–we had the opportunity to
invite people everywhere to rediscover the Golden Rule.

The Charter of Compassion was composed by leading thinkers from many
different faiths. It is a cooperative effort to restore not only
compassionate thinking but, more importantly, compassionate action to the
centre of religious, moral and political life. Compassion is the principled
determination to put ourselves in the shoes of the other, and lies at the
heart of all religious and ethical systems.

Why is this so important?

One of the most urgent tasks of our generation is to build a global
community where men and women of all races, nations and ideologies can live
together in peace. Religion, which should be making a major contribution to
this endeavour, is often seen as part of the problem. All too often, the
voices of extremism drown out those of kindness, forbearance and mutual
respect. Yet the founders of each of the great religious traditions rejected
the violence of their time and sought to replace it with an ethic of

They argued that a truly compassionate ethic, embodied by the Golden Rule,
served people’s best interests and made good practical sense. When the Bible
commanded that we “love” the foreigner, it was not speaking of emotional
tenderness. In Leviticus, love was a legal term: It was used in
international treaties, when two kings would promise to give each other
practical support, help and loyalty, and look out for each other's best

In our globalised world, everybody has become our neighbour, and the Golden
Rule has become an urgent necessity.

When asked by a pagan to sum up the whole of Jewish teaching while he stood
on one leg, Rabbi Hillel, an older contemporary of Jesus, replied: “That
which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. That is the Torah–and
everything else is only commentary.”

The Dalai Lama put it even more succinctly when he said: “My religion is

These traditions have also pointed out that we must not confine our
benevolence to those we find congenial or to our own ethnic, national or
ideological group. We must have what one of the Chinese sages called jian
ai, or concern for everybody. If practiced assiduously–“all day and every
day” as Confucius enjoined–we begin to appreciate our profound
interdependence and become fully human.

Today, our world has become dangerously polarised and many of our
policies–political, economic, financial and environmental–are no longer
sustainable. We are all bound together–socially, economically and
politically–as never before. Our financial markets are inextricably
connected: when one falls, there is a ripple effect worldwide. What happens
in Afghanistan or Iraq today may well have repercussions in New York or
London tomorrow.

But we have a choice. We can either choose the aggressive and exclusive
tendencies that have developed in many religious and secular traditions or
we can cultivate those that speak of compassion, empathy, respect and a
“concern for everybody”.

The Charter for Compassion will be launched on 12 November. It is not simply
a statement of principle; it is above all a summons to creative, practical
and sustained action to meet the political, moral, religious, social and
cultural problems of our time.

In addition to participating in one of the many launch events, we invite
each individual to adopt the charter as their own, to make a lifelong
commitment to live with compassion.

We cannot afford to be paralysed by global suffering. We have the power to
work together energetically for the wellbeing of humanity, and counter the
despairing extremism of our time. Many of us have experienced the power of
compassion in our own lives; we know how a single act of kindness and
empathy can turn a life around. History also shows that the action of just a
few individuals can make a difference.

In a world that seems to be spinning out of control, we need such action


* Karen Armstrong is a former nun turned historian and author, and winner of
the TED Prize in 2008 and the 2009 Common Ground Award for Compassion.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a South African cleric, activist and Nobel Peace
Prize winner, as well as the 2002 recipient of Search for Common Ground's
Lifetime of Peacebuilding Award. Find out how you and your community can
participate in the ongoing effort to build a fair, just and compassionate
world at This article first appeared in the
Herald Times and was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 20 October 2009,
Copyright permission is granted for publication.

  • Buy "Neighbors, Strangers and Everyone Else" a book by Rev John Brian Paprock
  • Monday, October 19, 2009

    Interfaith Acitivity in the Madison Area

    Upcoming Interfaith Activity in the Madison Area 

    (from Madison Interfaith Dialogue - Oct. 14, 2009 - Notes from Ellie Jacobi)
    1. Our December meeting will be at the state capitol building from 10 – 12, prior to the Interfaith Awareness gathering at noon in the rotunda.  Give yourself time before or after to look at the various interfaith displays.  More details will be available at our regular November meeting. [Displays will be up all week] 

    2. On Nov. 12 the UN Charter for Compassion will be unveiled.  There will be a Madison event in honor of the occasion on Thurs., Nov. 12 from 7 – 10 PM at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center, 953 Jenifer St.  For information, contact Callen Harty at 608-469-6686 or

    3. Please spread the word:  The Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration will be on Sunday Nov. 22.  Gather at 2:30, program begins at 3, followed by sharing of food.  Keynote speaker is Joe Elder. There will be music, meditation, prayers, readings and other sacred expressions of Thanksgiving from a variety of spiritual traditions and communities in the grater Madison area.  You are asked to bring canned goods or cash for the Dane County Food Pantries, as well as an appetizer, dessert or other finger food to share at the end.  Ruth Hoffman-Hein provided flyers (sent via George) for us to post.  If you have places to put them up, just ask for more from Ruth 608-347-4724.  If your group is not yet a sponsor, or if you would like more information, go to     (Note:  capital letters needed for GMIA)

    Next meeting: Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009 at Holy Wisdom Monastery, 10:00 – 12:00
    Next Program: Introduction to the Charter for Compassion and our individual reactions to it.  Please read it before the meeting,

    December Program:  Interreligious Dialogue on the Charter for Human Rights and the Charter for Compassion.  We will compare, contrast and relate both to the Golden Rule. 


  • Buy "Neighbors, Strangers and Everyone Else" a book by Rev John Brian Paprock
  • Tuesday, October 06, 2009 updates and Charter for Compassion


    I would like to invite you all to visit our public website  to see the recently updated membership map. If you click on 'View NAIN NA in a larger map', you are taken to the online, interactive Google map with a side panel listing of our members. The membership list has also been updated.

    Below the map is a link to an extensive online archive of NAINConnect '09. You might find it a useful resource.

    I always welcome submissions on topics of interfaith interest for NAINews. For the Fall issue, I would like to set a deadline of November 9, so that I can bring the issue out to coincide with the unveiling of the Charter for Compassion on November 12 at the UN.

    NAIN is already a listed partner for the Charter for Compassion. You may wish to see the recently inaugurated website sponsored by Karen Armstrong, the Dalai Lama, and Desmond Tutu.

    If you are planning any local events in conjunction with this unveiling, please submit these for the NAINews. Local partnerships are invited. Karen Armstrong's team of writers wants this to be more than just a 'feel good' moment. They would like it to be a genuine catalyst of remembrance of our shared core value of compassion and the Golden Rule.

    Judy Lee Trautman

  • Buy "Neighbors, Strangers and Everyone Else" a book by Rev John Brian Paprock