On February 28, 2008 scholar of comparative religion and prolific author Karen Armstrong won the TED Prize (http://www.ted.com) and made a wish: for help creating, launching and propagating a Charter for Compassion. Since that day, thousands of people have contributed to the process and on November 12, 2009 the Charter was unveiled to the world.

In February 2009, the Council of Conscience, a multi-faith, multi-national group of religious thinkers and leaders, met in Geneva to review and sort through the world’s contributions and to craft the final Charter. (You can read more about the individual members of the Council at http://charterforcompassion.org/learn/council/)

The Charter for Compassion reads:

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.


The Charter is underscored by the conviction that “compassion manifests itself in the world not by thinking but by doing” and the Charter itself is accompanied by a number of suggested ways to participate in both spreading the word and participating in events. More information on participation can be gained at http://www.charterforcompassion.org/share

Monks Without Borders is very proud to affirm the Charter for Compassion and urges all to do likewise and to unswervingly apply its principles in all aspects of daily life. Please visit the website at http://www.charterforcompassion.org for more information about the history and development of this beautiful initiative, to read inspiring stories from all over the globe, and to find out what you can do to make the ideas contained in the Charter a living reality for all.

To listen to Karen Armstrong’s wish (highly recommended), visit the TED site at http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/karen_armstrong_makes_her_ted_prize_wish_the_charter_for_compassion.html

A further speech given by Karen just a few weeks ago, and which looks at the role of religion in the 21st century can be accessed at http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/karen_armstrong_let_s_revive_the_golden_rule.html