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Rasheed Memorial Trust Backs Compassion Charter

A group of about 40 people gathered at the Ponsonby Mosque to celebrate the launch of the Charter for Compassion on 15 November. The meeting was organised by Aarif Rasheed representing the Rasheed Memorial Trust and Dave Moskovitz representing the New Zealand Jewish Council and the Union for Progressive Judaism. The meeting began with a brief text study from the Gospels, the Torah, and the Koran on the role of central role of compassion in our three religions. The group then worked together brainstorming ideas for projects to raise the profile of the Charter and compassion in our own communities.

The Charter for Compassion is a short document reinforcing the importance of the golden rule: treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. The Charter calls 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; and to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings “even those regarded as enemies."

The Charter is the brainchild of Dr Karen Armstrong, a former British nun who won the $100,000 TED Prize in 2008 to grant "one wish to change the world" with her wish to bring together a group of leading inspirational thinkers from Judaism, Christianity and Islam to craft a Charter for Compassion based on the principles of universal justice and respect. Over 1,000 people collaborated online to write the Charter, which is now being launched worldwide through a series of events and religious services.

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The Auckland meeting generated a number of potential projects, including creating friendships between people and religious communities through meetings in homes, bringing our religious youth groups together to work on civic projects, promoting compassion in our own families, educating ourselves to dispel our historical ignorance of others, and using electronic media such as Facebook and web sites to promote our message.

Dave Moskovitz said that he'd never seen such energetic positive interaction in an interfaith event in New Zealand before. "In our own lives, our religions are a power of good, and our basic religious teachings tell us to be compassionate, love our neighbours, be kind to others, and be good citizens. This is common to all our religions, and provides a wonderful shared kaupapa or basis from which we can work together to make the world a better place. And there was plenty of energy and resolve at this meeting to do just that."

The Rasheed Memorial Trust was established in the memory of Auckland lawyer and pioneering interfaith worker Abdul Rahim Rasheed, and aims to engage peoples of all faith through collaborative action.

The Rasheed Memorial Trust is a partner to the Charter, which is appropriate given Abdul's history of compassion and tolerance to all peoples throughout his life, says Aarif Rasheed. "I still hear new stories of compassion rendered by my late father more than 3 years after his death which inspires the work the Trust now does. And by connecting good acts to the Charter, we hope this growing movement of compassionate action will inspire changes in our world. The Rasheed Trust is honoured to be joined by organisations such as the NZ Jewish Council and we invite other faith groups to join a growing coalition of groups promoting the Charter in NZ. Abrahamic faiths in particular attract criticism for not doing enough for peace, and we have a corresponding responsibility to act and inspire good."


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