Karen Armstrong was awareded the 2008 TED Prize for her research on the role of religion in the modern world. She has used the award to create a “Charter for Compassion,” in which she calls all the major religions to return to the central role of religion–cultivating compassion.
…the core of every single one of the world religions is the virtue of compassion, which does not mean “pity”; its Latin root means to feel with the other. Each one of the world religions has developed its own version of the Golden Rule — Do not treat others as you would not like to be treated yourself — and maintained that this is the prime religious duty. Everything else in the Torah is “only commentary,” said Rabbi Hillel; you can have faith that moves mountains, said St Paul, but without charity it is worthless. The Prophet Muhammad said that a person who did not fulfill the Golden Rule could not be called a believer. And each of the faiths also insists that you cannot confine your compassion to your own group. You must have “concern for everybody,” love your enemies, and honour the stranger.
Yet — some magnificent exceptions — rarely hear our religious leaders speaking of compassion. All too often the message is strident, intolerant or else overly concerned with dogmatic belief or a particular sexual ethic. But wherever I go — east or west — I find that people are longing for a more compassionate world. The aim of the Charter is to change the conversation, make it cool to be compassionate, and bring the Golden Rule back to the centre of religious life.
Although her emphasis on compassion as the center of religious practice is needed, the question that still remains is how? How do you become more compassionate? How do you love your enemies? How do you relate to someone who has harmed or threatened you? How do you carry a greater sense of compassion toward yourself and those you interact with? These are the questions we’re trying to address in Triptykos. We not only want to reframe Christianity as a path toward reconciliation and compassion, but we’re seeking to actually provide the exercises, practices, and teachings to help people activate their own capacity for compassionate living.
Update: Check out Armstrong’s TED acceptance speech