Is 'Compassion' Necessary for the Social Entrepreneur?

In our world where we often feel confusion, misunderstanding and even animosity with the fact that the world’s religions and spiritual traditions often differ, today we find some hope through social responsibility. Hope in the sense that, while all spiritual beliefs and religions may differ, they fundamentally have a common thread running through them all.

According to Karen Armstrong, that thread is strong enough for us to go beyond differences in belief. It is strong enough to truly love one another.

It is compassion.

Karen Armstrong & The Fight For Love & Compassion

Karen Armstrong, and her team of spiritual leaders from around the world, have come up with a Charter to affirm the belief in the importance of interfaith dialogue and understanding, but more importantly, in compassion for each other as human beings in practice.

Personally, I thought that the Charter would be longer and more detailed, something similar to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, I suppose that compassion itself, is simple, and it needs no complicated thesis to explain what it is. You can easily recognise it when it is there.

And I suppose for me personally, this sort of Charter is significant. I’m a Christian myself who grew up in a mainly Christian country (Australia and Philippines), but I am now living in a predominantly Muslim country (Bangladesh) and working on behalf of refugees who were discouraged from practising their Muslim faith.

A great man once said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That was Martin Luther King Jr.

In the area I currently live, there are Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and a small group of Christians, all living together. We really should stop focusing on the differences, and focusing on all these spiritual labels. But appreciate, instead, that in our diverse spiritual beliefs, these beliefs essentially stand for something universal – that we want to give compassion to others, whichever their creed.

In the end, we are all human beings. And we really need to figure out a way to live together in harmony.

The Charter for Compassion

The Charter for Compassion was unveiled in late 2009, and it is given below:

“A call to bring the world together…

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

Visit the website of the Charter for Compassion for more info, or to affirm you support.

Compassion in Social Entrepreneurship?

I would argue that social entrepreneurs need to be aware of Karen’s perspective. I mean, we social entrepreneurs, are driven to help society and our world. We do need to understand the world in which we live. And in our current world, however, there are several people who strongly base their lives on religious or spiritual beliefs (most of the times for good, and admittedly, sometimes with adverse affects or reasons).

Not only that, the concept of philanthropy and giving and charity and social entrepreneurship and social responsibility does find its roots in religious and spiritual ideas.

As a social entrepreneur or an individual advocating for social responsibility, what do you think about Karen’s idea of “Compassion” as the thread that binds us all? How does the very idea of “Compassion” play a role in your social enterprise?