Compassion: the only viable option

Eminent scholar of religion, Karen Armstrong gives lecture at National University of Sciences and Technology.

Umer Nangiana February 02, 2011

ISLAMABAD: “We could change the world by activating the so-called silent majority through compassion,” said Karen Armstrong, the eminent scholar of religion. “The world cannot afford to be right or wrong rather than compassionate,” noted the theologian on Tuesday in her lecture at the National University of Sciences and Technology, part of the drive to launch a Charter of Compassion, an action plan to engage individuals to work for a better world.

One of the leading commentators on religious affairs and a best-selling author, Armstrong emphasised the need to resolve the problems confronting humanity through “kind dialogue”, where every party is willing to listen to the other.

“The stakes are so high that we cannot afford to be more right than compassionate,” she reminded the audience. “Dialogue has been a buzz word but peace does not break out of it unless the people involved do not listen to each other’s concerns,” she added.

She said compassion, a principal determination of the rights of others, provides the platform for such a dialogue.

“The attitude of tearing each other apart gives birth to extremism and the world cannot afford it,” she said, emphasising that compassion has to start at the grass-roots.

“It is putting oneself in the shoes of others and being concerned for everyone like a mother who is always concerned about her children,” she explained. “It was not about feeling pity for someone, rather it was experiencing and enduring with the others,” she noted.

Replying to a question on how a society divided on several lines and different faiths can be made compassionate, Armstrong observed that the divide existed, one way or the other, in almost every society.

“It is for the people of Pakistan to diagnose and determine how they reached this point and then address it accordingly, but compassion should lead the way forward,” said the renowned author of History of God.

She said there were always people on the fringes who were ready to talk and indulge in dialogue but they needed to be listened to and their concerns given due attention.

Explaining the Charter of Compassion, Armstrong called it “a global movement by humanity for humanity.” “We look forward to engaging schools for developing curricula on compassion, higher education institutions to conduct courses and studies, social organizations to create public awareness and corporate organizations to work for a compassionate environment at their respective workplaces,” she explained. It is document that transcends religious, ideological and national differences.

She invited everyone including students, businessmen, academia and politicians to join her in the mission to make the world a peaceful place.

Armstrong also launched two books, ‘Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life’ and ‘A letter to Pakistan’. A large number of students, who attended the lecture got their copies of the books signed by the author.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2011.


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