Part 3 • Karen Armstrong Interview on The Charter for Compassion Moving Forward

Part 3 • Karen Armstrong Interview on The Charter for Compassion Moving Forward


Sahil Badruddin: Going back to the Charter
for Compassion, which has over two million signatories, what’s currently happening
with it, and what are your future plans for it? Dr. Karen Armstrong: We’re coming to a turning
point now because Joan Brown Campbell who has managed it for years, she’s retiring
now, she’s 87. I’m hoping– we’ve got a whole new Board
of Trustees. Some of them I’m happy to say, a lot younger
than I am. And I should be having meetings with them
at the Parliament for World Religions that’s taking place in Toronto in November. I need to just hand this over to them because
we are too old, our rhetoric and everything is– we need to speak to the young. I’m hoping that…I know Joan was saying
these young people they have loads of ideas, so I want to hear them and to sit down so
that we take this further. My dream for the Charter has always been much
more global than is currently. People want their own cities to be nice. My dream was to– although there are now 200
of these cities – my dream was to twin or unite some of these cities, so that you had,
say a city in the United States twinned up with a city in Pakistan or the Middle East,
and that the universities who all subscribe to the Charter could exchange news; younger
people could form email friendships, we’d exchange views and gradually, some of the
misapprehensions we have about one another in our cocooned existence can be erased, and
our horizons enlarged – but I cannot get them to do it. Maybe the younger people will see the point. We are so obsessed with our own by what we
see in these cities, for example, every time we hear of a disaster. So many disasters come to mind, but say when
you hear of a particularly appalling incident in Syria, or you hear of a terrible– like
that time in Pakistan where the Taliban slaughtered 140 children – what they should be doing in
a compassionate city, is going to the Pakistani embassy and laying flowers there or going
to the Syrian embassy, making people aware that this is happening. SB: I completely agree. Dr. Armstrong: And the thing is, I’ve been
appalled at some of our terrorist attacks. The year before last, we had a spate of them
in London and then there was that business with the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris,
and yet there has been no such outcry about the Pakistani children. A few days after that, Boko Haram slaughtered
2,000 Nigerians and that had a tiny mention in the press. You remember that march that the Heads of
States were doing, linking arm in arm for free speech. I looked at this with unbelief, and I think
my own Prime Minister was then David Cameron, who headed a country, Britain, which had for
over a century, aggressively supported regimes in Muslim majority countries that allowed
their people no freedom of expression at all. SB: That’s appalling. Dr. Armstrong: There’s no thought of that
at all, and as with the Paris attacks, there have been some terrible attacks elsewhere
in the Muslim world, not a sign of it. But during the Iraq and Afghanistan war, it
was quite right that they honored the soldiers who were brought home dead in their coffins. But there was no sustained outcry about the
unacceptably high level of civilian casualties. All this should be making us uncomfortable,
I keep coming back to that, and not just to see ourselves as the center of the world,
because we’re not.

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