Compassion (Daya) as a tool to end gender based violence

Today, as we move to day 5 of the 16 days of activism to end gender based violence, World Sikh Organization of Canada would like to share a tool that we think may help us all do just that.  It's called the Charter for Compassion.

The Sikh faith is deeply rooted in compassion.  We call it Daya. Guru Nanak insisted that daya is the foundation of dharam (faith) and required all Sikhs to practice "Vand Chakna"; to share what we earn. He then continued to develop Daya when he instituted Langar, the Sikh free kitchen for all regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender or social status.

Mata Khivi, married to the second Sikh Guru, Guru Angad Dev, continued Guru Nanak's work and is credited today with the development of the current system of langar.   She is mentioned by name in the Sikh scriptures, Sri Guru Granth Sahib on ang 967 in Ramkali Ki Vaar:

Balwand says that Khivi, the Guru's wife, is a noble woman, who gives soothing, leafy shade to all. She distributes the bounty of the Guru's Langar; the kheer - the rice pudding and ghee, is like sweet ambrosia.

From Mata Khivi's contributions, compassion continued as a central theme through each subsequent Sikh Guru and we fast forward to Vaisakhi of 1699.  That momentous Vaisakhi where Guru Gobind Singh asked for one Sikh to step forward to give his head. Many thought he had lost his mind.  There was quite an uproar.

Then one man stood up and offered his head.  His name was Daya Ram, and he became Daya Singh.

Isn't it fascinating that it was 'compassion' that was the first to answer the call? This reflects how deeply compassion is rooted in the Sikh faith. 

Which brings us back to the Charter for Compassion.  It was developed as a result of the 2008 TED prize wish of Karen Armstrong, the author of Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, with generous support of the Fetzer Institute.

In her book, Karen Armstrong writes that "compassion is aptly summed up in the Golden Rule, which asks us to look into our own hearts, discover what gives us pain, and then refuse, under any circumstances whatsoever, to inflict that pain on anybody else. Compassion can be defined, therefore, as an attitude of principled, consistent altruism."

The Charter for Compassion calls 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."

You might be asking, how does this help us end gender based violence?  The Charter further states that "rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries."  And aren't these some of the obstacles in our goal to end gender based violence?

WSO encourages you all to check out the video link above and the website for the Charter at  The full text of the Charter can be found here.  The Charter is a strong tool that can help guide us all as we look for solutions to end gender based violence.

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