Compassion – Decatur signs charter

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt April 9, 2014
Cover Photo from the Charter for Compassion's 2013 annual report.

Cover Photo from the Charter for Compassion International’s 2013 annual report.

Decatur, GA is now officially a Compassionate City.

City Commissioners approved a resolution to that effect during their April 7 meeting and also signed the Charter for Compassion.

And what is the Charter for Compassion?

The Charter for Compassion website humbly suggests that it’s, “The best idea humanity has ever had …

The charter is promoted by Compassionate Action Network International as part of a campaign to create Compassionate Cities Campaign. Compassionate Action Network International and the Charter for Compassion International are two separate but cooperating nonprofits based in Seattle, Wash.

Decatur joined with Atlanta in becoming a Compassionate City. The idea comes from Karen Armstrong, a writer and former nun who won a $100,000 TED Prize and “one wish to change the world.” Armstrong wished for help launching her charter campaign.

“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,” Armstrong wished, according to the Compassionate Action Network website.

Even though Armstrong has a background in religion and the charter was created by an interfaith group, Decatur Mayor Jim Baskett assured people in attendance on April 7 that the charter itself is not a religious document.

“We consider ourselves a compassionate city. We have no reason not to consider ourselves that, and we have no reason to fear some measurements along that line or some impetus from citizens to try to find ways that we can be more compassionate,” Baskett said. “Personally, I find no reason for us not to sign on to the charter.”

Here is the text of the charter that the city signed:

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 centre of our world and put another there, and to honour 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 empathically 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 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 ~ 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.

Decatur follows Atlanta, which became a Compassionate City in 2013 with the stated goal of getting “at least four governments” to sign on to the charter. Another stated goal is that, “In at least 3 of the cities, compassionate city planning (will) have begun.”

The stated goals do not say what “compassionate city planning” means but the Charter for Compassion website does hold up Louisville, Ky, as a “model compassionate city.”

According to the website, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer says that “compassion can take many forms.” The website says Fischer, “Urged individuals and organizations to begin planning for the Give A Day week of volunteer service, April 15-22, 2012. In that first year, about 90,000 residents of the city volunteered or gave service within the week.”

Here is the text of the resolution Decatur City Commissioners approved on April 7:


WHEREAS, the Charter for Compassion was created by Karen Armstrong and the Council of Conscience in 2009 to urge the peoples and religions of the world to embrace the core value of compassion; and,

WHEREAS, the International Campaign for Compassionate Cities is a global effort inspired by the Golden Rule (to treat others as you wish to be treated yourself) to raise awareness of the benefits of compassionate action; and,

WHEREAS, its purpose is to encourage community leadership from around the world to create and bring together efforts towards increasing compassion through local initiatives, policy and projects; and,

WHEREAS, cities from Leiden, Netherlands to Appleton, WI are participating in the Campaign for Compassionate Cities; and,

WHEREAS, the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution in June of 2013 to endorse the Campaign for Compassionate Cities; and,

WHEREAS, by designating the City of Decatur as a Compassionate City we call on other cities and municipalities to join us in supporting the principle of compassion and acts of compassion.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, and it is hereby resolved, by the City Commission of the City of Decatur, Georgia, that the City of Decatur is designated as a Compassionate City and signs onto the Charter of Compassion as attached hereto.

This 7th day of April, 2014.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • manman

    Well, the fact that ATL has signed this and has done just about nothing to prove it shows how effective this charter is.

  • Chris Billingsley

    Nice graphic Danish. Perfect for Decatur.
    I’m not going to make much of a fuss about this. More than likely, this resolution will turn out like those of twenty years ago: “Whereas, the Decatur City Commission supports clean air… Resolved, we support Earth Day 1981” or “Whereas the Decatur City Commission supports birds…Resolved, we designate Decatur as a bird sanctuary” and nothing more would come of it. But unlike twenty years ago, when we had a more traditional small town southern government, resolutions today, like the Stragetic Plans and additional discrimination classifications, have real meaning. Who could have imagined that “Closing the Achievement Gap” in the school plan would lead to discrimination IN FAVOR of certain groups or that the “Smart Grouth” philosophy would lead to having a huge apartment complex and garage in your backyard. Ideas that sound so good sometimes come back to hammer us in a way we could not have imagined.
    The same things goes for “compassion”. Who could be against this? But there is plenty in the news this week that highlights the danger of limiting freedom of thought. A CEO with traditional beliefs about marriage lacks compassion and empathy for the marriage equality movement and so, he’s fired. Another individual will not be allowed to speak at a university because she lacks compassion for a religion well known for its oppressive attitudes towards women. And now our government feels the need to define for us what compassion means. Governments don’t do this! Free individuals do, often working together with others through churches, synagogues, and other charitable groups. I cannot understand why, in a community where almost every government action is vented thoroughly in committees, countless meetings, and blog posts, this resolution has received so little attention. Maybe it’s because this is nothing more than feel good fluff. Let’s hope so.

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