A Global Look at Compassion

A Global Look at Compassion

Marilyn Turkovich
Marilyn Turkovich

Now, in the early decades of the 21st century, we are all witnesses—through social media, if not in actual experience—to the suffering brought about by natural catastrophes and man-made tragedies on a daily basis. Every day, we learn of people suffering, in our own communities and in communities throughout the world. While we often rely on our government and social agencies to deal with the many issues that cause people to suffer, it is everywhere evident that something more is needed. More than ever we are confronted with an urgent need to listen to and understand each other, to empathize with all those who suffer, and to act with compassion for the health and wellbeing of all people.

The Charter for Compassion International (CCI) is motivated by this urgent need and believes that compassion is a crucial element for bringing about community wellbeing and a more peaceful world. CCI has been working to create and connect Compassionate Communities worldwide in a vast human network of people who yearn to realize a world in which all beings are treated with respect and their suffering with compassion.

Why Compassion?

Compassion is a concept that is deeply embedded in our human consciousness. We can consider the meaning and origins of the word “compassion” in various languages. We can read about the concept in discussions of ethics and morality. We can take into account the stories, parables, and theologies of various world religions. And we can read about compassion in the context of various related qualities and concepts found in academic journals as well as popular magazines, articles, and videos. A relatively recent approach to understanding compassion comes from scientific research. In highlighting the significance of compassion in community building, CCI has combined definitions from a number of sources to show that compassion means action. It moves beyond being aware of a problem to doing something about it.

The Whole is Greater Than its Parts 

While individual acts of compassion are to be encouraged, often they may not be enough to influence long-standing, entrenched, and emotionally-laden issues within a community—gang violence, drug use, domestic violence, police brutality, homelessness, racial injustice, human trafficking, chronic hunger, and prejudice against immigrants. Even those of us who feel great concern around these issues may feel powerless and perhaps hopeless in trying to resolve them on an individual basis.

In their book Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, renowned scientists Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler use the metaphor of the “bucket brigade” to emphasize the increased effectiveness of people working in connected networks as opposed to the same number of people working as individuals. For example, if a house is burning and a hundred people carry buckets back and forth from the river to douse the fire, they will be ten times less effective in putting out the fire than a line of people passing buckets of water from the river to the fire.

The Charter for Compassion International

CCI has been building a “network of networks”—our own version of the bucket brigade--to connect individuals, organizations, and institutions, as well as compassionate communities worldwide, which are already making compassion their focus and motivating force.

A Global Look at Compassion

We envision a world in which compassion and compassionate action, as articulated in our Charter, will become a transformative energy, motivating individuals and communities to care for each other, to relieve suffering wherever it is found, and to connect to other communities across the globe to ensure well-being for all beings on the planet.

CCI is an organization inspired by author and religious historian Karen Armstrong, who won the TED prize for her wish to create, launch, and propagate a global compassion movement based on the golden rule. The Charter has inspired many hundreds of thousands of individuals, who have affirmed it and have committed themselves to “make compassion a clear, luminous, and dynamic force” toward creating a “peaceful global community.” With over 300 compassionate communities and 1300 partners in our network.

CCI invites and welcomes individuals, groups and organizations, and communities of all sizes to affirm the Charter and join in working for a more compassionate world—perhaps by working to transform your own community into a Compassionate Community. The organization’s vision is to connect individuals, organizations, and institutions that are working to make compassion central to their daily activities in their own communities toward realizing its global vision.

Marilyn Turkovich started with the Charter for Compassion International (CCI) in 2013 as the education director and currently serves as the Interim Director with CCI. Marilyn's background has been primarily in higher education and most specifically in directing teacher training programs for the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, and chairing Columbia College-Chicago's master's program in multicultural and global education. She has done a considerable amount of curriculum writing through the years, much of it related to international and cultural topics. She worked with Independent Broadcasting Associates on a series for airing on National Public Radio, BBC and the Australian Broadcasting organizations. There was a period of time in the 1990s when she worked in organizational development and specialized in instructional design work, strategic planning and leadership development. She also wrote and developed training on race and social justice initiatives.