Sikh Temple Shootings
April 13, 2015
Reflection on the Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue
April 15, 2015

Parliament of World Religions Report

Parliament of World Religions Report


“Every generation is called upon to answer the great challenges of its time. We have the capability – and the responsibility – to come together in peace and goodwill to listen to each other and work together to heal our conflicted communities and our endangered planet.” With these words the Parliament of World Religions in Melbourne, Australia began.


Nearly 5,000 people of faith from around the world came together to hear each other and to highlight some of the most effective strategies to help people of faith and goodwill transform the world through real action in their own communities.


“You name the religion, whether it be a ‘new religion’ or one of the traditional faiths, they were there,” said Sam Muyskens who was invited to make a presentation on one of his favorite topics, Dialogue in Action. His presentation was filled with real life experiences where interfaith dialogue resulted in transformative acts of kindness and compassion.

Many presenters at the Parliament found reason to include the need for more compassionate action. Dr. Karen Armstrong, renowned theologian, historian and founder of the Charter for Compassion is quoted as saying, “Compassion is the principled determination to put ourselves in the shoes of the other and lies at the heart of all religious and ethical systems. It is an urgent task of our generation to build a global community where men and women of all races, nations and ideologies can live together in peace.”


Two years ago Karen was offered $100,000 by the prestigious TED Foundation to grant her one wish that would change the world. Her wish took their breath away:

“I wish that you would help with the creation, launch and propagation of a Charter for Compassion, crafted by a group of leading inspirational thinkers from the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and based on the fundamental principles of universal justice and respect.” (Feb. 28, 2008)

In the months that followed, Dr. Armstrong gathered religious luminaries such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, South African Methodist Bishop Peter Storey, Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, the Dalai Lama, Queen Rania of Jordan and others to hammer out the document. On November 12, 2009, the Charter was unveiled during simultaneous launch events in major cities around the world. It reads:


Charter for Compassion

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 center of our world and put another there, and to honor 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 emphatically 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 center 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.

After reading the Charter for Compassion and meeting seven of the Charters’ authors at the Parliament of World Religions, Sam Muyskens signed the Charter. Sam is not the only one. Since the launch thousands of people from diverse nations and traditions have endorsed it. A copy of their names has been sent to leaders of nations engaged in armed conflicts. You can also sign the charter by going to:

Perhaps the following videos will help you understand the charter’s vision and inspire you to take further action!

From Sam’s Journal – a beautiful piece of art

Several Buddhist monks spent their time creating a piece of art with colored sand from the ocean. Day after day they carefully spread the sand out on a large canvas placed on a table. I asked a monk,“What will happen to this beautiful piece of art?” “When the artists are finished,” replied the monk,“we will enjoy the work for a moment, and then the sand will be placed back into the ocean.” “How can they spend so much time and energy on a piece of art that will be thrown back into the sea?” I asked. The monk replied, “That is what happens to all of us, we are a beautiful piece of art, here on this earth for a little while and then we are returned to the earth (or the ocean floor) to become a new piece of art.”


From Sam’s Journal – the indigenous Aborigine

I took a break from the Parliament workshop and found a quiet place to meditate on the banks of the sacred Yarra River. The Yarra River must have looked quite different before Melbourne was born and all the buildings were built. What a gift it is that the Parliament chose to meet along the Yarra River, a river that has played a central role in the practices and beliefs of the Aborigines. As I continued to reflect, I was suddenly honored with the presence of an indigenous Aborigine elderly man who willingly shared the struggles and spiritualities of the Aborigines. He suggested I visit the museum of Aborigine art, which I did and found it hard to leave because, it was so fascinating. The depth of spirituality expressed in the Aboriginal art work is breath-taking.

From Sam’s Journal – Sacred Music and Dance

The spiritual observances and performances of sacred music and dance experienced at the Parliament of World Religions are reason enough to attend. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all learn to experience each others’ traditions and allow the width and breadth of God’s love to radiate within each of us?

From Sam’s Journal – the Dalai Lama

I had lunch with a Tibetan Buddhist monk. She said “Wherever I am, the people I am with are my family.” She was such a peaceful and happy woman. She has never experienced an earthly family, but is a disciple of the fourteenth Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama believes that the purpose of life is to be happy. He says,“From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering.” He also says that the more we care about the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. The Dalai Lama would therefore say, with a smile on his face, that we must remove the two greatest hindrances to happiness: anger and hatred. These powerful emotions overwhelm our entire mind – they control us. “Anger and hate,” says the Dalai Lama, “eclipse the best part of our brain: its rationality. So the energy of anger is almost always unreliable.” I know my first response when I am angry is to retaliate, which in my experience has almost always been destructive. That is why I am going to frame a picture of the Dalai Lama, and hang it next to my desk. I think I should also record his laugh and listen to it every morning. The Dalai Lama says, “It is possible to feel that anybody we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a brother or sister, no matter how new the face or how different the dress and behavior… our basic natures are the same.”

From Sam’s Journal – Parliament to be a home for all

The Parliament claims to be a home for all faiths, and they did a pretty good job of that. I have attended three Parliaments and this one, in my opinion, was the most inclusive. What has struck me the most, however, is the presence of seminary students and young people. Never before, in all the interfaith events that I have attended has there been such a presence of seminarians and youth. This is a dramatic change in the interfaith movement. Christian ministers, Jewish rabbis, or Muslim imams cannot be effective religious leaders without knowing something about other religions. And if the youth of our world do not “take up the banner,” the interfaith movement will die.

Youth Penary 7 Dec from Parliament of Religions on Vimeo.

From Sam’s Journal – a closing thought

The Yarra River, and all my global friends I am leaving behind. It will be a long airplane ride to home where I am loved. My family and friends have worried about me – they questioned whether I had the strength to make this trip. I know that I have a “sick heart.” My heart attack took a lot out of me. But, I am recovering, and my heart muscles are repairing themselves. I am blessed with more energy every day. I do not know how many days, months or years I have left on this planet – but no one knows that. I do know one thing, however, and it is this: peace will only come to this world when we learn to respect each other.

On September 1, 2009, I had a cry – a peaceful, personal cry. I was watching “Good Morning America,” and they had Whitney Houston on as one of their guests. I have always loved listening to the velvet voice of Whitney Houston. She began to sing, “I Look to You,” and the tears began to flow. If I want to be happy like the Dalai Lama, if I really want to believe that we, the people of this globe, will learn to respect each other, then all I can do is ‘look to you’ – my sisters and brothers of this global family, which I am privileged to experience each day of my life. Together, we will learn to live at peace with each other.

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