Can Compassion Save the Planet?

Karen Armstrong, founder of the Charter for Compassion, on what we need to do to make a better world.

When British author Karen Armstrong won the TED prize in 2008, she used the money to convene a group of religious thinkers from a wide range of faiths to craft an updated version of the Golden Rule for the 21st century. What emerged was the Charter for Compassion, which calls on people around the world “to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and put another there, and to honor the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.” That document inspired the creation of an international network, which now includes hundreds of organizations and more than 75 cities, ranging from Kara- chi to Belfast to Chippewa Falls.

Why the focus on compassion?

Every one of the major religions has formulated its own version of the Golden Rule. That’s the essence of faith and spirituality. And it seemed to me that it wasn’t just a nice idea; it was an urgent global imperative. Unless we learn to ensure that all people, no matter where they live, are treated the way we would like to be treated, the world isn’t…

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