Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote here about an interesting project which sought to use the internet to engage with people of all beliefs from around the world in developing a Charter for Compassion. The process took over a year and included some key ethical and spiritual leaders at some of the pivotal stages. It has now been completed and the final version of the Charter has been released.
It is perhaps no surprise that it starts out with the so-called Golden Rule which is often said to lie at the heart of almost all religions – “always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.” Given its aim of universal applicability, it is both short and simple in form. But (to me at least) it is not simplistic, nor is it simple to apply.
However, its messages are ones well worth reflecting on in considering the public debates of today – both the major, such as climate change and global inequality, and the not so huge, such as how to respond to small number of asylum seekers looking to get here by boat. That is not to say that the policy solutions to these and others issues are simple – they often are not. But rather, to assess potential solutions and the way we debate them, against some fundamental principles such as this:
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.
At time of writing, over 13 750 people have affirmed the Charter – some well known public figures, many not.