On November 14, 2009, I attended one of the hundreds of unveiling ceremonies across the world for The Charter for Compassion. Compelled to promote this most essential human gift, a small committee gathered to begin collecting essays on the meaning of compassion from individuals across globe – religious and non-religious, all races, rich and poor alike.

Over the months, the organization gathered steam, not unlike the Obama campaign, as more and more people were moved to think about their lives with compassion as the center pole. The unveiling of the Charter is only the beginning of a momentum that needs to spread, must spread, if human life is to do more than survive.

The Charter is a worthy meditation. The courage to examine one’s life according to this dimension and commit to growth in the area of compassion is a worthy devotion.


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.

For more information go to www.charterforcompassion.org