Thursday, November 18, 2010

 

 
Charter for Compassion!
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MyMuhibbahGroup- Unity Among Youth
As an offshoot of our engagement in this year’s Initiatives of Change (IofC) "Tools for Change KL 2010" conference that was held in early March, we decided to take a closer look at how we can create a compassionate society.
Background:

Thiaga the chairman of this loosely built group had led discussions during the Open Space process on what we could do to create greater integration amongst the youth and create a sense of purpose and appreciation of the richness of the diversity in our society that had off late seemed to become more fragmented and segmented. At this conference we also had the rare privilege of watching a fascinating video entitled 'The Imam and Pastor', on the remarkable levels of forgiveness and reconciliation the human spirit is able to achieve in the name of compassion, resulting in a richer, more profound friendship, understanding on a personal level and an impetus of the development of society on a societal level. We were also privileged to hear Dr. Chandra Muzaffar speak on the Charter for Compassion (C4C) http://www. charterforcompassion.org founded by Karen Armstrong and for which he was a member and contributor towards the development of this international charter. Putting the pieces together we were excited in seeing through to the fruition of the Malaysian chapter of C4C; on how in whatever small ways, we could make these tenets actionable and create a ripple effect in our society. Hence the offspring of this was 'MyMuhibbah Group - Unity among Youth'.

Member Meetings:

Since middle of March we have had 5 meetings, with the very first being held in Tia's and Haridas's place and subsequent meetings being held in Dr. Asma Abdullah's place; they have all graciously extended their place with warm hospitality that has indeed provided a most conducive environment and played an important role in our continued motivation towards this endeavour, so taking a quick opportunity here to extend our gratitude to them, thank you.

The Model and Framework for Action:

Thiaga and a few members touched base over a lunch meeting with Dr. Chandra Muzaffar shortly after the IofC conference to gain a better understanding of the Charter for Compassion (C4C) and with a subsequent meeting with the members of MyMuhibbah agreed to operationalise or put into action the C4C through a 3 step approach:

Learn:

The members agreed that for MyMuhibah group on compassion to function effectively, it would be in the best interest and effort for members to firstly initiate a good understanding of what compassion entails, how to restore and cultivate compassion in oneself and ultimately, acting it out naturally with passion. It was therefore imperative to have a clear understanding of the Charter for Compassion for the success of the MyMuhibah group. To achieve this objective, members used the initial meetings to view the 6 videos in the website to gain a good understanding of the different perspectives on Compassion and used this as a basis for the members' discussion to crystallize their own thoughts on Compassion. Please visit http://charterforcompassion.org/learn/talks website. Here's an extract of the insights gained, taken from our 3rd meeting (minuted by Santha) where we had viewed 2 of the video talks:

  • Rev. Dr James A. Forbes on "Compassion at the dinner table"
    Rev. Forbes narrated how he learnt all about compassion and what it meant day to day at his own dinning table with his parents and siblings. His mother entrenched in him and his siblings, the need for sharing and caring for those who seek love and compassion. She explained that for one to stay as family or extended family is to care and share and to look out for one another every day. By doing so, one will not only receive gratitude from members of the family or extended family but also from God who readily smiles in heaven at us. As a result, there will be an overwhelming flow of peace, justice and happiness in ourselves and the universe at large.He advocated for solidarity in compassion by inviting everyone to act and cultivate compassion as a habit. If this is done in a continuous manner, it will nurture a system of sustained care. Rev. Forbes summed up his simple understanding of compassion with a song, which says:
    I made heaven so happy today,
    I received God's love and gave it away.
    When I look up, heaven smiles at me.
    Now, I am so happy, can't you see! (Chorus)
    Sharing makes me happy and makes heaven happy too
    Now I am so happy, can't you see! (Chorus)
    Let me share my happy loving smile with you!
  • Swami Dayananda Saraswati on "The Profound Journey or Compassion"
    Swamiji unraveled the parallel paths of personal development and attaining true compassion. He walks us through each step of self-realization, from helpless infancy to the fearless act of caring for others. Swamiji reiterated that to have compassion is not an easy task. One becomes a true contributor only when he himself feels secured. We have to therefore discover the weaknesses in ourselves, be it money, power, status, etc. and reach our own self awareness which would be central for all mankind. Otherwise, Swamji believes compassion is just a word/dream. Compassion more than often is moved by the feeling of empathy and that is not good enough e.g. when someone is in pain, we feel the pain. However, the capacity to empathize is the window to compassion. One has to discover wholeness - to feel compassionate in totality. To feel good even when in the brink of disaster. This is like being fused into oneness - which confirms that despite all our limitations, you can be happy - only then compassion flows out from you. Alternatively, Swamiji says one has to fake compassion; you act out compassion as though you are a compassionate person. Praying constantly for compassion also helps. By doing so, slowly and surely, he believes one will then become a dynamic mechanism of oneness, wholeness that brings about compassion!
Understand:

As we viewed the videos, discussed and looked to our own experiences, while we did not derive one definite definition of what compassion is, we had become very clear of what compassion is not. We also came to the realization that experiences / expertise from Dr. Asma sharing knowledge on Brain Profiling and how this can be used to facilitate a holistic perspective of a person, to Shereen Iqbal, the country representative for C4C, sharing initiatives with refugees and other underdogs, and members own experiences with showing compassion to unwed mothers, the disabled and the likes, that without perhaps thinking of it as such, we have all practiced compassion by reaching out to society, yet there is still a great need with pockets of society clearly requiring it and the practice of compassion in our everyday acts contributes towards a society of shared understanding and a need for a concerted effort such as this to formalize, document and create a greater ripple in society.

Act:

There has been much deliberation from the meetings past, now we have reached a point of mooting out ideas for a number of initiatives; to document the stories of compassion that have already been lived, to reach out to schools with sharing the C4C (exploring translating this to different languages) and facilitating sessions with the youth to hear their perspective on the values associated with compassion - peace, justice / respect / equity, empathy, open-mindedness, interdependence, non-threatening approaches that transcend all differences, respecting the individual and to have competitions centering on the theme of Compassion.

The journey so far, even as we are in the infancy, has been reflective and exciting and we encourage ideas and contributions in the endeavour to realize the Charter for Compassion in ourselves, in our youth and in society at large.

Soumya Iyer