Charter for Compassion

On November 12, 2009, Karen Armstrong, author, commentator and ex-Catholic nun, unveiled her Charter for Compassion.

This is the Charter –

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

Join the conversation –



  1. Trish I used to live near Karen in North London, and see her in the local shops, but didn’t know who she was until a few year later and so never spoke to her. 🙁

    Have you seen her TED speech that I posted a while back:

    I will try to see how this fits with my work on empathy in conflict. I guess it is the reverse of conflict induced autism and it would be marvelous to be able to use the world’s religions to support the move from conflict autism, blaming, paranoia, persecuting those with different beliefs, different races etc. To build in your terms true functioning reciprocity. Karen is part of that movement and her knowledge of the different religions quite marvelous. Her auto biography Spiral Staircase? and other books are well worth reading, especially the History of God.

    My friend Bill Ury has a project called the Abrahamic Path that has groups of Christians, Jews and Muslims going on a pilgrimage together following Abraham’s footsteps from Turkey to Jerusalem: see

    1. Thanks, Ed – as always great suggestions – I have seen that talk and it is excellent – thanks for the link to the post as well – also excellent. I haven’t read Karen Armstrong’s books but plan to do so.

      What I love about her idea is that it is about doing something positive and active as opposed to just not doing something negative – if that makes sense!


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