Archive for the ‘Karen Armstrong’ tag
By Tahil Sharma
Student, University of LaVerne
Youth Representative of the Parliament of the World’s Religions
United Nations DPI-NGO,
My selection to represent the Parliament at the United Nations DPI-NGO began with a mutual understanding of a global ethic, exercised in every action taking place in the interfaith movement. My strides as an activist for peace, understanding and the basic rights of every individual have now evolved, creating a rippling effect that will hopefully impact future generations of youth and numerous communities across the spectrum of religious and secular thought.
What I considered just random acts of kindness, doing what’s right, is becoming now the basis of an international message of diversity, inclusion and service for all mankind.
Sharing the Compassionate Atlanta Festival with the Parliament
Until recently, being selected for this opportunity seemed like a distant dream that I never thought would become a reality.
After finally treading on Georgian ground, absorbing the kindness and history in Atlanta and at Morehouse College, reality sank it in the most beautiful and unbelievable way. From meeting the grandson of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Vice President of Soka Gakkai, Charter for Compassion author Dr. Karen Armstrong and the esteemed Board of Trustees of the Parliament, my motivation for equality and justice was renewed.
From seeing the spectrum of people, lawyers and educators, politicians and clergymen, even fellow activists and lovers of the world, I began to realize that those small acts towards building community and helping the less fortunate which began in a small Southern California town were given consideration by such an inspiring group of people. It became clear that nothing now, nor ever, would prevent me from continuing to make the difference that I can in this world.
The value of every human and the innateness of compassion and empathy within us is what compels me to defend all living creatures that tread this Earth- and to cherish this reality for all it has given and taught us. Our small acts of kindness can make the biggest impact on so many people.
And that’s the sort of positive change that will make a difference in the world we perceive and the world we wish to leave with our posterity.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions and the Charter for Compassion announce their strategic partnering for collaboratively supporting the Compassionate Cities movement around the world. Charter founder Dr. Karen Armstrong Parliament Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid signed the strategic partnership announcement April 3 in Atlanta, affirming:
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions and Charter for Compassion International today announce our strategic partnership aimed at supporting the emergence of the Compassionate Cities movement worldwide.
This Compassionate Cities movement is deeply aligned with the principles of the Parliament. The International Campaign for Compassionate Cities aims to affirm the principle of compassion in the behavior of hundreds of millions of people in thousands of communities around the globe. We believe compassion is a practical, measurable standard we can apply to specific outcomes, including the alleviation of poverty, hunger, and disease, the protection of human rights, the extension of democracy, the creation of a peaceful world, and dealing with the challenges of global climate change.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions is the mother of the global interfaith movement. Its mission is to achieve a peaceful, just and sustainable world, and at the heart of that mission is the convening of the world’s largest interfaith gathering, each time in a different host city.
The first Parliament was held in 1893 in Chicago and brought Hinduism, Buddhism, the Jains, Sikhs, and other Eastern faiths to the United States.
Council of the Parliament will encourage Ambassadors of the Parliament as well as its members and affiliates around the world to join the Compassionate Cities Initiative and to engage their local communities with the movement. The Charter for Compassion will highlight the Parliament’s efforts to bring the principles of the Charter to life in projects and programs in every community.
Signed April 3, 2014 by Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid , Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Parliament, and Dr. Karen Armstrong, Founder, Charter for Compassion International and the author of the Charter for Compassion.
The Parliament wishes to share congratulations on the unanimous resolution voted by the City Council of Atlanta, which became official on February 12, 2014, declaring:
“…BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT THE CITY OF ATLANTA IS DESIGNATED A COMPASSIONATE CITY.”
This encouraging progress for the Charter for Compassion comes this week from the Parliament’s Faiths Against Hate partners in Atlanta, championed by by Chair Emeritus Rev. Bob Thompson and a collective of three major interfaith organizations in the greater Atlanta area.
After launching the Compassionate Atlanta campaign to create a compassionate circle of cities February 2 at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center, the Atlanta City Council passed the following resolution, and is encouraging surrounding municipalities to follow suit.
The principles for the Charter for Compassion stem from the very elements of the Golden Rule, which is endorsed through the world’s traditions in the Initial Declaration Toward a Global Ethic drafted in collaboration by the planners of the 1993 Centenary Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago and the daring German Theologian, Hans Kung.
Seeing the progress of the Charter sway governments and transforming global society city by city is a sign of a changing world. It is of the utmost importance for all invested peacemakers to capitalize this spirit in the work to heal hate and advance a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.
Congratulations to the city of Atlanta and each campaigning locality being bold, brave, and visionary.
We salute you!
Winding down from World Interfaith Harmony week would be a backwards way of saying it. For event organizers like the Compassionate Cities campaigners in Atlanta, the work is only just beginning.
This is true of Rev. Bob Thompson, Board Chair Emeritus of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, who is now championing a metro-wide effort to bring the Charter for Compassion to life in Atlanta. The Compassionate Atlanta kickoff event was held at the Carter Center on February 2 with co-sponsorship of the Parliament’s Faiths Against Hate campaign, and as a participating entity of the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week observance. Incidentally coinciding with the beginning of Black History Month in the United States, the Compassionate Atlanta launch embodies the beloved community vision of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
By launching the campaign, Rev. Thompson is primed to share how a Compassionate city campaign works, and what the Charter means to Atlanta. In a recent conversation with the Parliament, Thompson explains how Atlanta pulls interfaith and interracial harmony under the same umbrella, and why partners like the Parliament’s Faiths Against Hate campaign and other common causes can find a local focus to live out the Charter.
Parliament: Before we talk about the Charter, what can you share from your favorite memories of your time on the Parliament board?
Rev. Thompson: I cherish so many luminous memories from my tenure. From the Parliament in Cape Town to leading a small group of trustees to meet with the Dalai Lama—these and many significant encounters linger in my memory. But probably the most significant recollection occurred after 9/11 when we hosted a large interfaith gathering in a Chicago-area mosque. Following that gathering many of us in the Chicago interfaith community literally stood with our Muslim sisters and brothers outside of Chicago-area mosques for a number of subsequent days as a statement of our solidarity.
Parliament: How does the Charter for Compassion relate to its offspring movements, like Compassionate Action International, the Compassion Games, and Compassionate City campaigns?
Rev. Thompson: The Charter For Compassion was first articulated by Karen Armstrong in her “Make A Wish” TED talk in 2008. Her wish was granted and the Charter For Compassion was subsequently drafted by a “Council of Conscience,” consisting of interfaith global religious and spiritual leaders. The Charter is the blueprint for the International Campaign for Compassionate Cities and Compassion Games which serve as concrete expressions of the Charter for Compassion.
Parliament: What does it mean for a city to create a Compassion Campaign?
Rev. Thompson: Every city campaign reflects local capacities. But each and every city campaign is rooted in the Charter For Compassion. However we organize in our cities, the message is the same, “treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Parliament: How have municipal leaders taken to the Charter? Do governmental entities agree to change their practices to promote Compassion?
Rev. Thompson: When a city government declares itself a “compassionate city” it issues a proclamation that embraces the Charter for Compassion while working together with its citizens to develop a compassionate action plan that reflects the vision and capacities of that municipality. These efforts ultimately have the power of changing the public conversation and consciousness.
Parliament: What new and different outcomes can a city embarking upon a Compassionate Cities campaign expect, or hope to see happen?
Rev. Thompson: I live by the mantra, “communities consist of conversations. We change our communities by changing our conversations.” We learned from the Civil Rights movement and more recently from LGBT movement, when the conversation changes, communities inevitably change. I believe that compassion and compassionate action are conversation changers that are powerful enough to transform the communities in which we live.
Parliament: Your kickoff event attracted a large crowd of multi-religious and racially diverse faith leaders at the Carter Center in Atlanta over the Feb. 2 -3 weekend. How does the interracial network of faith leaders collaborate in Atlanta as compared to what you saw in Chicago? Moreover have you learned anything organizing in Atlanta which could help aspiring community leaders advance the beloved community in racially segregated cities (like Chicago)?
Rev. Thompson:The diverse Atlanta interfaith community has been the driver of the Compassionate Atlanta campaign. As an aside, when we were organizing to host the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) in the summer of 2012, I looked around at members of our organizing team and realized I was the only white man on the committee of 12. That was a very different experience than I had while doing interfaith engagement in Chicago.
The interracially diverse interfaith community in Atlanta reflects in part, the cultural complexity of Southern history. This diversity was also evident at our Compassionate Atlanta launch at the Carter Center. It has been my experience that the Atlanta interfaith community is intentional about living out the vision of the Beloved Community as Dr. King so eloquently articulated. In terms of residency, most of our cities are racially segregated, Atlanta included. But if we become conscious and intentional about WHO we engage in our conversations—we can make the Beloved Community real in terms of everyday life. It all begins with being conscious and intentional and culminates in developing relationships that change how we see ourselves and each other.
Parliament: What happens next for the Compassionate Atlanta campaign?
Rev. Thompson: The purpose of our February 2nd Compassionate Atlanta gathering at the Carter Center was to call all citizens in metro Atlanta to concrete actions that invite cities in the metro area to:
- 1. Declare their city as a Compassionate City
- 2. Invite organizations to sign on as Charter Partners or
- 3. Initiate conversations in our communities around the Charter for Compassion and the question of “what does compassion ask of us?”
We plan to gather again at the Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel at Morehouse College on April 3rd for a Compassion Celebration to report back on what we have done and learned in this two month compassion experiment.
Parliament: The Faiths Against Hate campaign of the Parliament is a co-sponsor of Compassionate Atlanta. How can (and why should) an organization become a co-sponsor?
Rev. Thompson: The Faiths Against Hate Campaign is a very important first step! When CPWR Chair Malik Mujahid called me last April asking if we could organize a Faiths Against Hate event in Atlanta, my immediate response was “Yes!” Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that we needed to mobilize people around something concrete and positive. I checked out the compassionate cities movement and asked Malik if we could use this as our organizing strategy. He was very enthusiastic and supportive. So the Parliament has helped to make the Faiths Against Hate campaign real in Atlanta through the Compassionate Cities movement. Each and every locality must find their own way to give expression to the Faiths Against Hate initiative. Finally, we are all in this together. If we want to bring change to our world we must think globally and act locally. This is what we have done in Atlanta.
Parliament: Are there any lessons you picked up during your time leading the Parliament that have contributed to how you inspire interfaith and compassion now?
Rev. Thompson: The most important lesson I learned in my role as Parliament Chair was that interfaith dialogue and engagement empowers us to understand that our differences present us with an opportunity to go deeper. Beneath our differences we share a common humanity. It is this vision of our deep unity amidst our diversity that gives me hope and keeps me doing the work I continue to do.
Rev. Robert V. Thompson - Chair Emeritus. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Bob Thompson graduated from Berkeley Baptist Divinity School (Graduate Theological Union) and was ordained an American Baptist minister in 1973. He served American Baptist Churches in Kansas, Ohio, and for 30 years, as Senior Minister of the Lake Street Church in Evanston, Illinois. He retired in November of 2010. During the 1980′s Thompson became an activist pastor focusing on issues such as homelessness, racial reconciliation and advocacy for LGBT rights. He is recognized as Minister Emeritus of the Lake Street Church and Chair Emeritus of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Over the years he has contributed articles to periodicals including The Christian Century, The Chicago Tribune (op-ed), Sound Vision (a Muslim outlet), and others. He is the author of A Voluptuous God: A Christian Heretic Speaks (CopperHouse, 2007) and a contributor to the book for preachers, Feasting On the Word, Westminster John Knox Press.
Upon retirement he moved to Atlanta, Georgia where he is actively engaged in the Atlanta interfaith community.
Celebrated British Author Karen Armstrong Wins Inaugural Prize For Her Contribution To Global Interfaith Understanding
I am so honoured to receive this prize. I am also most grateful to Dr Nayef Al-Rodhan and the British Academy for drawing attention in this way to the need for transcultural understanding. One of the chief tasks of our time must surely be to build a global community where people of all ethnicities and ideologies can live together in harmony and mutual respect: if we do not achieve this, it is unlikely that we will have a viable world to hand on to the next generation. Religion should be making a contribution to this endeavour but, sadly, for obvious reasons, it is often seen as part of the problem. Yet I have been enriched and enlightened by my study of other faith traditions because I am convinced that they have much of value to teach us about our predicament in our tragically polarized world.
The Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Transcultural Understanding, which is open to nominations from around the world, is a new award from the British Academy. It is named after International Relations scholar, Dr Nayef Al-Rodhan, who is the author of numerous works, including The Role of the Arab-Islamic World in the Rise of the West: Implications for Contemporary Trans-Cultural Relations (2012). This new prize – worth £25,000 and to be awarded annually for five years – is designed to honour outstanding work illustrating the interconnected nature of cultures and civilizations. Dr Nayef Al-Rodhan has said of this prize:
“Positive transcultural understanding and synergy is not only morally appropriate but also necessary for the sustainable future of our globalized world. The multi-sum security nature of our connected and interdependent world makes such positive interactions an important pre-requisite for transcultural security, national security of all states, and the security and stability of the whole global system.”
Sir Adam Roberts, President of the British Academy, will say at the award ceremony on 4 July:
“This is the British Academy’s newest and biggest prize, and we are deeply grateful to Nayef Al-Rodhan for having initiated it. Much of the Academy’s work – in a huge range of subjects from classical antiquity to modern politics and international relations – draws attention to the elements of sharing, borrowing and even theft of ideas between different civilizations. The British Academy is delighted to inaugurate this very special prize. A distinguished jury, chaired by Dame Helen Wallace, Foreign Secretary of the Academy, selected the winner. From a large and impressive field they have made a brilliant choice.”
A former Roman Catholic nun, Karen Armstrong is well known for her work on comparative religion. She has drawn attention to the commonalities of the major religions, such as their emphasis on compassion. She rose to prominence in 1993 with her book A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Her substantial body of work (translated into 45 languages) also includes:
• Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths (1996).
• Islam: A Short History (2000)
• Buddha (2000)
• The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (2000)
• The Spiral Staircase: A Memoir (2004)
• A Short History of Myth (2005)
• The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions (2006)
• Muhammad: A Prophet For Our Time (2006)
• The Bible: The Biography (2007)
• The Case for God: What Religion Really Means (2009)
She has been notably active in bringing together different faith communities to encourage mutual understanding of shared traditions. In 2005, at the inauguration of Alliance of Civilizations, a UN initiative sponsored by the Prime Ministers of Spain and Turkey, she was appointed a member of the international High-Level Group that was asked by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to diagnose the causes of extremism and to propose measures to counter it. She is a Trustee of the British Museum and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
She has received many awards and prizes. In 2008, on receiving the TED Prize, she called for the creation of a Charter for Compassion, which was unveiled the following year (www.charterforcompassion.org)
from The Huffington Post
We call Global Spirit the first “internal travel” series, because the topics and the discussions so often lead to a kind of inner exploration. Unlike programming on Animal Planet or National Geographic, Global Spirit is not about discovering anything that is outside of yourself. The opening program in our series, “The Spiritual Quest,” was one of our more exciting and challenging to produce
For Karen and Bob, it was one of those “first-time meetings” that we try to achieve on Global Spirit — to bring two people together for the first time, in this case, two highly articulate teachers and authors from distinct religious traditions, who have always wanted to meet each other. You can sense a kind of magic in the air, as they both experience the sheer delight of discovering things about each other they’ve always wanted to know. Yes, it was an uplifting show, with a good amount of spontaneous humor.
By Karen Armstrong
From the Guardian
Ever since the Crusades, when Christians from western Europe were fighting holy wars against Muslims in the near east, western people have often perceived Islam as a violent and intolerant faith – even though when this prejudice took root Islam had a better record of tolerance than Christianity. Recent terrorist atrocities have seemed to confirm this received idea. But if we want a peaceful world, we urgently need a more balanced view. We cannot hope to win the “battle for hearts and minds” unless we know what is actually in them. Nor can we expect Muslims to be impressed by our liberal values if they see us succumbing unquestioningly to a medieval prejudice born in a time of extreme Christian belligerence.
Like Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Sikhs and secularists, some Muslims have undoubtedly been violent and intolerant, but the new exhibition at the British Museum – Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam – is a timely reminder that this is not the whole story. The hajj is one of the five essential practices of Islam; when they make the pilgrimage to Mecca, Muslims ritually act out the central principles of their faith. Equating religion with “belief” is a modern western aberration. Like swimming or driving, religious knowledge is practically acquired. You learn only by doing. The ancient rituals of the hajj, which Arabs performed for centuries before Islam, have helped pilgrims to form habits of heart and mind that – pace the western stereotype – are non-violent and inclusive.
In the holy city of Mecca, violence of any kind was forbidden. From the moment they left home, pilgrims were not permitted to carry weapons, to swat an insect or speak an angry word, a discipline that introduced them to a new way of living. At a climactic moment of his prophetic career, Muhammad drew on this tradition. Fleeing persecution in Mecca in 622, he and the Muslim community (the umma) had migrated to Medina, 250 miles to the north. Mecca was determined to destroy the umma and a bitter conflict ensued. But eventually Muhammad broke the deadly cycle of warfare with an audacious non-violent initiative.
Karen Armstrong spoke this past month at a special gathering hosted by the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions in Palo Alto, California. The celebrated author and founder of the Charter for Compassion addressed the ethos of compassion and the work of the Charter.
“Compassion is not just an attitude of sloppy benevolence, it requires practical action. It requires a sense of responsibility,” said Armstrong. “It’s not an impratical dream. It’s a necessity for our survival. We have to treat people, whoever they are, with respect.”
Armstrong also lifted up the collaborative nature of the work of the Charter for Compassion, and highlighted the partnership between the Charter and CPWR, particularly the integration of the Charter with the work of the Council’s Partner Cities Network
“This is the task of our time…to make the compassionate voice of religion, spirituality, morality a clear, luminous, and dynamic force in our troubled world.”
From The Huffington Post
The anniversary of 9/11 reminds us why we need the Charter for Compassion. It should be an annual summons to compassionate action. The need is especially apparent this year. In the United States, we have witnessed an upsurge of anti-Muslim feeling that violates the core values of that nation. The controversy surrounding the community centre near Ground Zero, planned by our dear friends Imam Feisal Rauf and Daisy Khan (who were among the earliest supporters and partners of the Charter) has inspired rhetoric that shames us all. And now we have the prospect of the Quran burning proposed by a Christian pastor, who seems to have forgotten that Jesus taught his followers to love those they regard as enemies, to respond to evil with good, and to turn the other cheek when attacked, and who died forgiving his executioners.
If we want to preserve our humanity, we must make the compassionate voice of religion and morality a vibrant and dynamic force in our polarised world. We can no longer afford the barbarism of hatred, contempt and disgust. At the same time as we are so perilously divided, we are drawn together electronically, economically and politically more closely than ever before. A Quran burning, whenever it is held (it appears to have been delayed for questionable reasons by the pastor behind it), would endanger American troops in Afghanistan and send shock waves of distress throughout the Muslim world. In an age when, increasingly, small groups will have powers of destruction that were previously the preserve only of the nation-state, respect and compassion are now crucial for our very survival. We have to learn to make a place for the other in our minds and hearts; any ideology that inspires hatred, exclusion and division is failing the test of our time. Hatred breeds more hatred, violence more violence. It is time to break this vicious cycle.