Charter for Compassion

charter for compassion logoI am a big fan of TED, if you haven’t been there yet make sure you go because there is a lot of amazing content, speakers and ideas there to be enjoyed and reflected on, access to people who you would never have heard of otherwise. They have a prize for people who have innovative ideas to change the world. The most recent winner of this is Karen Armstrong who has asked for help to create and propogate a Charter of Compassion to try and bring peoples together under this banner.

At the moment I am confused about this, confused as to whether my assessment of it is wrong or right and I  would love any feedback you have to bring to it.

Essentially I feel that creating a charter for something that is already enshrined in the religious systems of the world but is fundamentally ignored by political and economic powers is at worst pointless and at best utopian. Those people that would affirm this charter are essentially those who don’t need convincing. What will this charter acheive? Is it valuable to state the blindingly obvious?

It refers quite often (though it kind of tries not to ) on “religious conflict” missing the point that most “religious conflict” springs not from faith in God or a higher power, but from economic drivers (The Irish situation) or, more fundamentally, from ethnic differences (Bosnian/Serbian conflict).

I hesitate to sign up to this charter because, as a Christian,  I should fundamentally be doing this stuff anyway and I don’t need to tell the world about it. I also don’t think adding my voice to this will change the nature of humanity, it’s too distant, to disengaged, it’s a feel good experience that requires nothing of us, nothing of the miltia crucifying Christians in Sudan, nothing of the soldier insulting and abusing Muslims in detention camps.

Plus – what is compassion, really? There are some interesting TED talks about compassion that give different perspectives that I think will help, but the site doesn’t give any direction as to the kind of situations in which compassion may not be the obvious response but  might truly be needed. Apparently there will be suggestions about this so maybe I am jumping the gun!

There are many touching stories of compassion on the site, but this only proves that compassion is actually alive and well, it’s just not big enough or prevalent enough  – and hasn’t that always been the case?

Well, I will take off my cynical hat now and say that I hope that this charter does increase the sum of compassion in the world, but if people who are already going to church or consider themselves ethical humans with a moral framework are not showing compassion already I fear this won’t change that.

Any thoughts? Maybe this is a cultural thing and I am being too English and reserved about it. Am I right in thinking that this just a feel good project that requires nothing of us or am I in fact refusing to be compassionate by not engaging in it?


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