(November 20, 2009) – Toronto residents took part in the launch of the Charter for Compassion last week by holding lectures, discussions, film screenings, reflective walks and dedicating weekly sermons to the topic of compassion.
The Charter for Compassion, officially launched on November 12, is a 330-word document that was crafted by people from all walks of life, nationalities, beliefs and backgrounds with the intent to unify, inspire and bring compassion back into the heart of society.
The Charter initiative was funded out of the Ted Prize, awarded every year to three “exceptional individuals,” and includes $100,000 and the granting of “one wish.”
Karen Armstrong, winner of the 2008 TED prize, had the wish “that you would help with the creation, launch and propagation of a Charter for Compassion crafted by the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and based on the fundamental principle of The Golden Rule.”
Events to commemorate the launch of the Charter took place across the globe from Australia and South Africa to Argentina and Thailand with more than 100 partner organizations.
To celebrate the launch, Muslim Presence Toronto, one of the many world-wide partner organizations, produced a large ‘Wall of Compassion’ banner which sought to remind people that they already share the core principles of compassion.
“I am very inspired by the Charter for Compassion which is centered on the Golden rule – ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” says Afaun Mandol of Muslim Presence Toronto, organizer of the Wall of Compassion.
“We will be asking those who agree with the statement to pledge to integrate it into their life by signing the Wall of Compassion.”
On the day of the launch, November 12, the Tikkun Toronto group met at noon in the heart of High Park, the city’s largest park, in a labyrinth shadowed by a grove of oak trees.
The Charter for Compassion was read and the group took part in a reflective walk of the labyrinth and affirmed the Charter by signing of the Wall of Compassion.
Later that evening, Scarboro Foreign Missions, another partner organization featured a premier presentation of ‘Animating the Golden Rule,’ a new documentary film by Tina Petrova, followed by an interfaith panel discussion on compassion at the Multi-Faith Centre at the University of Toronto. Muslim Presence Toronto also took part in the gathering and invited attendees to sign the Wall of Compassion.
Around the city, the Muslim Friday sermons on November 13 were dedicated to the topic of mercy and compassion.
At the Anatolia Islamic Centre in Mississauga, Taha Ghayyur reminded the congregation in his Khutba (sermon) of the importance of compassion and mercy in the Islamic sources.
“It’s interesting to note that God uses the word Rahma, meaning compassion and mercy in Arabic, and its derivatives 326 times in the Quran,” he said.
“Allah did not limit His Mercy to those who believe in Him only and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him, shared his compassion with his neighbours and anyone he saw as disadvantaged, oppressed or needy in the community, regardless of his or her faith,” Ghayyur added.
He challenged the audience to engage in sharing and compassionate works.
“If God and His Prophet didn’t limit their mercy and compassion, what is holding us back from sharing our humanity?” he said. ”Borrowing a phrase from Piero Ferrucci, we should be concerned about the ‘global cooling’ of relations, in a world where genuine love, compassion, care, and warmth are quickly fading.”
In the east end of Toronto, Irshad Osman delivered the Khutba at the Danforth Islamic Centre, and invited the congregation to reflect on the Allah’s Mercy and Compassion for all of His creation.
“The earth we live in, the air we breathe, the nature we enjoy, the rain we benefit from are all signs of Allah’s Mercy,” he said. “These bounties in nature are not solely for us; but for every living being on earth.”
Osman then spoke of living the ethic of reciprocity in all aspects of daily life.
“For our family, friends and relatives let us live by the Prophetic advice, ‘Love; you will be loved; Forgive; you will be forgiven’; for people in need, ‘Help them as you would like to be helped’; and for relating to fellow human beings, he invoked the Qur’anic verse, ‘Treat them with kindness and justice.’
Delivering the Friday Khutba in the historic Hart House building of the University of Toronto, Muneeb Nasir reminded the congregation of the urgent need for a focus on compassion in an increasingly fractured world.
“While we are all connected as never before in human history – electronically, economically and politically – we are experiencing disconnectedness,” he said.
“We have a choice – we can choose to be bystanders, throw our hands up and despair or we can choose to become aggressive and isolate ourselves or we can be courageous and cultivate relationships based on compassion.”
“Compassion which requires us to put ourselves into the place of the other requires courage; cowards need not apply,” he added.
Nasir then reminded the audience of the nature of the relationships that Islam wants Muslims to develop.
“Compassion is connected to our capacity to love – love for others what we love for ourselves – as the Prophet Muhammad advised in the famous tradition,” he said. “When we give of ourselves we must give of what we most love as Allah says in the Qur’an, ‘You will not attain piety until you give of what you love’.”
AFFIRM THE CHARTER -> www.charterforcompassion.org