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Karen Armstrong on revitalizing compassion around the world

At Raptim, we applaud the work of our religious clients and admire their relentless commitment to helping those in need. Read about Karen Armstrong’s inspirational reflection on the roots of compassion in the world’s great religious traditions. Compassion embodies a great cross-religious promise, she argues, to turn religion from a source of conflict into a source of peace in the world.

If religion is not about believing things, Karen Armstrong asks, then what is it about? In her studies, she found that religion is about behaving differently.

“Instead of deciding whether or not you believe in God,” she says, “first you do something. You behave in a committed way and then you begin to understand the truths of religion.” Center stage in this practice is given to compassion. This holds true for each of the world’s great religious traditions.

“We need to empower people to remember the compassionate ethos.”

Karen Armstrong, author and religious scholar

What is compassion? It is the ability to feel with the other. It requires a type of human-heartedness that makes for a transcendent experience in itself. “In compassion, when we feel with the other, we dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and we put another person there,” Armstrong says.

“And it is an arresting fact that right across the board, in every single one of the major world faiths, compassion is not only the test of any true religiosity, it is also what will bring us into the presence of what Jews, Christians and Muslims call God, or the Divine. It is compassion, says the Buddha, which brings you to Nirvana.”

Armstrong passionately calls for a Charter for Compassion, crafted by a group of leading inspirational thinkers from the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and based on the fundamental principles of universal justice and respect.

“We need to create a movement among all these people I meet in my travels – you probably meet them, too – who want to join up in some way and reclaim their faith, which they feel has been hijacked. We need to empower people to remember the compassionate ethos.”

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