By Glenn Chapman (AFP) – Nov 12, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO — Religious leaders from around the world joined a former nun on Thursday to unveil a Charter for Compassion that urges people to embrace understanding and shun violence.
A charterforcompassion.org website that sprang from a wish Karen Armstrong was granted in 2008 at a prestigious Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Conference went live Thursday.
"It requires you in your own sphere to work for a more compassionate world," Armstrong told AFP. "The terrorists and extremists are all highly organized and networked; we must do the same."
The charter's growing list of "affirmers" includes the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Queen Noor of Jordan, Grand Mufti of Egypt Sheikh Ali Gomaa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu; author Sir Ken Robinson, and musician Paul Simon.
The charter is approximately 330 words, calling on everyone to "restore compassion to the center of morality and religion" and to foster appreciation for cultural and religious diversity.
The charter also urges a "return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate."
A TED member with computer design prowess helped build a charter website where people can learn about the grassroots campaign or universal compassion, share the message and collaborate on taking action toward the goal.
"A launch is only the beginning of a voyage and not the end," Armstrong said. "Now people have their own website where they can organize and we can make it a movement. We have to go to work to put the charter into focus."
The website is also intended to serve as a venue for groups or individuals who have been working in isolation to collaborate as an online community.
The home page includes a box where people share word of compassionate deeds big or small.
"The charter is a summons to action, it is not just a feel good thing," Armstrong said. "It calls upon people to find creative ways of implementing... to work energetically for the good of humanity in one's own community."
A simple way to begin, she added, is to stifle nasty off-the-cuff comments.
Religious leaders worldwide helped craft the charter, which was memorialized in plaque form by designer Yves Behar and will be hung at secular spots in cities such as New York, Cairo, London, Ramallah, Melbourne, and Buenos Aires.
The charter is posted online in seven languages, with the list to be expanded.
"In the media, teaching, banking, or bringing up children one has to think of the passionate ethos," Armstrong said. "All day and every day to put yourself in the shoes of somebody else."
Annual TED conferences draw acclaimed thinkers and doers to candidly discuss evil, beauty, innovations, the future and how to save humanity.
The list of past speakers features novelist Isabel Allende, rock stars Bono and Peter Gabriel, former US president Bill Clinton and vice president Al Gore, Wikipedia creator Jimmy Wales, and Google founders Serge Brin and Larry Page.
TED speakers are challenged to give "the talk of their lives" in 18 minutes each, while listeners are called on to help make inspirational visions real.
Videos of talks are made available free online at ted.com.
TED prize winners each get 100,000 dollars in cash to fulfill "a wish to change the world." TED conference attendees, and now those viewing talks on the Internet, are called on to help make the wishes come true.
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