Charter for Compassion

Posted on November 13, 2009



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.

— VIA —

In the Bible, there are several words that are used for the word compassion, all of which are rich in meaning and depth.

(רחם) (r-ch-m) which can mean brotherhood or a brotherly feeling. But it also means “born of the same womb.” The first occurrence is found in Genesis 43:14, when Judah is going back down to Egypt to retrieve food in the midst of the famine, bringing Benjamin to Joseph. The second occurrence is in v.30, when Joseph sees Benjamin and is overwhelmed (or over excited) with “affection for his brother,” (רחמיו אל-אחיו). This is the word found in Psalm 103:13, twice.

(חמל) (ch-m-l) which can mean to “spare” or “become responsible for.” First found in Exodus 2:6 when Pharaoh’s daughter “took pity” (ותחמל עליו) on Moses.

(חוס) (ch-oo-s) which can mean take “pity” or to “be troubled.” First found in Genesis 45:20 (meaning :do not be troubled”), but also in Psalm 72:13, as God “takes pity” on the needy/poor, and saves their lives/soul.

The last round of Compassion called “The Seeds of Compassion” bred some Christian contempt as some Christian leaders involved themselves with non-Christians in these endeavors. I imagine there will be a continual wave of this kind of resistance as well with this Charter. However, I would suggest, that the 2 Corinthians 6:14f. passage needs a deeper investigation into the kind of ethic Paul is writing about, when it comes to covenantal partners as opposed to the work of justice and compassion in the world. So, for now it is my hope that Christians, who claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior, would see this movement — the Charter for Compassion — as an alignment with the Kingdom of God which Jesus was purporting here on earth,…as it is in Heaven.

Posted in: Culture, Religion