Charter for Compassion


During the week of Christmas, I cannot think of a more important message than that of having compassion. On Sunday, I shared how the Gospel writer Luke set the stage for the drama of Jesus’ life with compassion. The word “mercy” showed up four times in the first chapter of Luke, which is the word for used when compassion, grace or love is demonstrated to others; and then Luke spends the rest of the Gospel showing how Jesus broke down the walls that stand between people and the compassion we have for them, making all people our neighbors and friends.

At the Parliament of the World’s Religions, which I attended in Salt Lake City in October, Karen Armstrong spoke of compassion and the Charter for Compassion, which she was instrumental in writing. It is an important document, which calls for people of all faiths to commit to living with compassion for others. I recently signed the charter and invite you to do the same.

The charter is written below in full. If you would like to see and hear it read by a group of diverse and articulate people in a powerful way, please click: CHARTER FOR COMPASSION. On that page, you can also sign the charter and commit to living with compassion.

During this season in which we celebrate God’s love, my prayer is that we will live in a world where compassion is evident everywhere.

I hope to see you on Christmas Eve for our service of candles and carols and on Christmas Day for Holy Communion.

Mele Kalikimaka me Aloha Nui!

Kahu Alan Akana



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 indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.