This Sunday, as part of the three-day World Peace Through Personal Peace Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, His Holiness the Dalai Lama will join TED Prize winner Karen Armstrong for the official launch of the Charter for Compassion website, www.charterforcompassion.org.
Using the website as a starting point, they will call on the world to begin the world-wide, grass-roots movement to restore compassion to the center of religious, moral and political life. TED will live-stream the Sunday afternoon discussion on compassion, free to the public, at http://www.ted.com/webcast/watch/event/peacesummit
Compassion, as Armstrong explains, is not the feeling of good will or pity. Instead, she writes in an editorial co-authored with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to be published this week, "it is . . . the principled determination to put ourselves into the place of the other [that] lies at the heart of all truly religious and ethical systems." The Charter for Compassion website will explain the principles that have guided the Charter's creation and its writing, and will offer website visitors ways to put those principles into action by hosting events organized around the Charter's official launch on Nov. 12. We are hoping website visitors will sign up to host events and encourage their friends, colleagues and religious leaders to do the same.
During this weekend's World Peace Through Personal Peace Conference, Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama will receive the Fetzer Institute Prize for Love and Forgiveness for their inspiring commitment to advancing humanity's understanding of the power of love, forgiveness and compassion. The recipients will be awarded $100,000 each to support their work. Unfortunately, the Archbishop has had to cancel his appearance for personal reasons.
Armstrong and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, will lead the Sunday afternoon discussion on compassion with the Dalai Lama. The session will begin at 1 p.m. PDT, with a musical interlude, after which Armstrong will speak and introduce Robinson. They will then be joined by the Dalai Lama's fellow Nobel Laureates, Betty Williams, Mairead Maguire and Jody Williams. The afternoon conversations will be live-streamed here.
A 2008 winner of the TED Prize, Armstrong has been working to establish a document that would bring attention back to the principles of universal justice and respect that are central to all the world's great religions. Each faith has its version of the Golden Rule, she explains -- always treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself -- and those "others" include all the peoples of the Earth, not just our own familiar community, religious congregation or group of friends.
Achieving such a goal is not a hopeless pipe dream, Armstrong says. "The great sages who promoted the Golden Rule," she writes in the editorial, "were nearly all living during periods of history like our own, when violence had reached a terrifying crescendo." Combating that violence and creating a genuine climate for peace through compassion will enable all of us to shape the world's future in a positive direction.
During the Charter-writing period, people of all faiths, from around the world, contributed their ideas, suggestions and stories. A Council of Conscience, made up of fourteen renowned religious thinkers and leaders, then wrote the final version. The Charter for Compassion will officially launch on Nov. 12, 2009, and is, as Armstrong and Archbishop Tutu explain, "above all a summons to creative, practical and sustained action to meet the political, moral, religious, social and cultural problems of our time."