Claire Morgan and Paul Heywood describe their time representing the Charter for Compassion at the Parliament of World’s Religions.

Claire Morgan and Paul Heywood

Claire Morgan and Paul Heywood

When we arrived at the Parliament for the World’s Religions in Melbourne we couldn’t believe the sheer volume of different activities that were to take place. As we thumbed through the 394 page program (affectionately dubbed ‘the telephone book’) we were dazzled by the choices on offer. Truly it seemed that all the world’s religions were presented among the plethora of panel discussions, workshops, presentations and plenary sessions. After some serious reading and list-making from Claire and some slightly more right-brained reflection from Paul, certain events or talks stood out as not to be missed. One of these was the session on the Charter for Compassion which was to be held on Sunday 6th December.

We arrived at room 220 for the Charter for Compassion session to find the space already packed. We squeezed our way through to a couple of seats near the back. The session was indeed inspirational with Karen Armstrong’s video message backed up by thoughtful and challenging contributions from Sr Joan Chittister, Dr Chandra Muzaffar and Tariq Ramadan. One of the most interesting points for discussion was around the importance of being compassionate to ourselves, as well as, and in order to, be compassionate towards others. Towards the end of the session Danielle Lauren was introduced as the Sydney Ambassador for the Charter. Danielle then read the Charter aloud;  a great move, as there were many people there who weren’t familiar with it.

In closing, Danielle asked everyone in the room to sign a document in support of the Charter for Compassion and to pass the word on in their communities. Unfortunately this was a flying visit for Danielle who had to return to Sydney, but it occurred to us that we could help by trying to promote the Charter to those we met during the rest of the Parliament days. Enthused by the positive response all around and the inspirational speakers, we offered to try and set up a stand for the Charter and collect signatures of support.

Danielle left for Sydney, entrusting us with the signatures already gathered in the hope that many more names would be added to the pages. Then, to use a cliché, all the pieces of the jigsaw just came together. Parliament staff already knew all about the Charter and were really happy to provide a table and exhibition space for us in the main foyer. We found a design and print store up the road from the Convention Centre and made some big, colourful signs, and create the stand to promote the Charter and to collect signatures of support.

And collect we did. We didn’t really have time to go out and approach passers-by. Instead, people came to us. Some were curious; others keen to sign right away. Some wanted to find out about the website or to take a copy of the Charter. Some just wanted to thank us for being there. We met teachers who described the classroom activities on the Charter that they planned to run, parents who wanted to tell their children, children who wanted to tell their parents, countless religious leaders… and a good number of stalwart Karen Armstrong fans! When we left the table unattended to go to a session of the Parliament we would return to find people had been interested enough to come over take a copy of the Charter and sign. By the end of the Parliament we’d gathered over 500 signatures, distributed hundreds of copies of the Charter for Compassion and had a great deal of fun doing it.

Signing the Charter

Signing the Charter

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Sister Joan Chittister and Danielle Lauren

Sister Joan Chittister and Danielle Lauren

Danielle Lauren, an Australian Ambassador for the Charter for Compassion, has launched a campaign to get 100,000 handwritten signatures in Australia to support the Charter.

The Charter supports the golden rule – “To treat others like you would wish to be treated.

Ms Lauren, a Sydney-based social activist and filmmaker, made the exciting announcement at the recent Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne at a special session dedicated to the Charter. The speakers included Karen Armstrong, who inspired the Charter, Sister Joan Chittister, Dr Chandra Muzaffar and Dr James Doty.

Ms Lauren said, “I call on Australians to sign the Charter for Compassion and proactively spread the message of compassion.”

If you would like to get involved or get more information, please contact Danielle at danielle@tedxsydney.com

Kuranda Seyit Reverend Seforosa Carroll Bhante Sujato Dr Mehravar Marzbani Danielle Lauren

Over 50 young religious leaders from throughout Sydney gathered on Sunday at the Museum of Sydney for a historic interfaith solidarity forum to promote compassion.

This event was organised by social activist and filmmaker, Danielle Lauren. It was a project of the worldwide TED movement (Technology. Education. Design), a private non-profit organisation dedicated to bringing the power of love, forgiveness and compassion to communities everywhere. http://www.ted.com

It coincided with similar TED forums around the world to celebrate the signing of the “Charter for Compassion.”The Charter supports the golden rule – “To treat others like you would wish to be treated.”www.charterforcompassion.org

The following religious representatives gave passionate speeches about compassion from their perspectives:

Bhante Sujato – Buddhist

Professor William Foley – Buddhist

Reverend Seforosa Carroll – Christian

Rabbi Mendel Kastel – Jewish

Kuranda Seyit – Muslim

Dr Mehravar Marzbani – Zoroastrian

Danielle Lauren, who gave the opening and closing addresses, said “I still have faith in humanity – as long as we hold leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa or Ghandi as worthy recipients of our admiration and respect then all is not lost.”

“I hope the launch of the Charter for Compassion marks a new chapter in the history of humanity – where we use the principles of religion to bring us together instead of pull us apart.”

“I look forward to engaging more young leaders from Sydney’s vibrant multicultural communities to help spread the messages of the Charter.”

The Charter for Compassion was launched in Sydney on the 15th November 2009.

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