Note: This blog includes wishful thinking. Cynics, pessimists and curmudgeons should take a pass.

Malaysia’s Tioman island is known for its beautiful beaches, lush greenery and crystal clear sea waters. It’s also the resting place of a beautiful dragon princess. According to legend, en route to see her prince in Singapore, she took a pit stop to bathe in the aquamarine waters and never left. Instead, she took the form of an island and pledged to offer shelter and comfort to passing travelers.

Maybe that’s why, Salang village became a magnet for backpackers from across the globe. As a grad school student in Singapore, I spent many wonderful weekends there, paying as little as $4USD per night for a room with an overhead fan and fresh pineapples for breakfast.

Of course, the unexpected encounters among fellow travelers is what made the visits truly priceless.

One day, for example, I met a Brit and we got to talking about how to create the ideal world – you know, with peace, justice and prosperity for all. I remember him giving me an oral treatise on all the political and economic systems that would need an overhaul. I clapped back saying we’d only need one thing: a universal commitment to human dignity. To him, my idea was positively naïve. To me, it was wholly aspirational.

That’s why, many years later, I crushed hard watching Karen Armstrong, a former Roman Catholic nun and winner of the 2008 TED prize, speak about her dream to create the Charter of Compassion. (Watch her talk here.)

Imagine for a moment a world in which the darkness of suffering is healed by the light of compassionate action; in which children and adults are literate and skilled in the transformative nature and power of compassion; and in which we treat ourselves, each other, and the natural world with dignity and respect, manifesting the Golden Rule in all relationships. Those are words taken directly from the Charter of Compassion’s website.

Armstrong successfully brought her vision to life!



The Charter is now available in more than 30 languages and has been endorsed by more than two million individuals around the globe, including many VIPs such as music producer Quincy Jones, serial entrepreneur Richard Branson, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan and musicians Peter Gabriel, Melissa Etheridge and Paul Simon.

Here are two inspiring excerpts:

“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.”

 “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.”

 I completely agree – that’s why I signed the Charter!

Now, I’d like to offer three ways for you to get involved:

  1. Affirm the Charter here.
  2. Join the Compassionate Cities “The Charter invites communities of all sizes to bring compassion to life in practical, specific ways through compassion-driven actions – in neighborhoods, businesses, schools and colleges, healthcare, the arts, local government, peace groups, environmental advocacy groups, and faith congregations.”
  3. Register for a course offered by the Charter’s Education Institute (CEI). Their lineup includes: The Science of Compassion, Spirituality and Community Building, and more recently, How to Build Resilience in a Polarized World.


The news does a great job of describing all that’s wrong in the world, whereas the Charter of Compassion breaks through that noise. Maybe it’s time to take a break from the racket and commit to practising a little more empathy, compassion and the golden rule. And begin daydreaming about a trip to Tioman island.

PS Join the Purposeful Empathy community. Together, let’s spread more empathy in the world.

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For more than a decade, I have been singularly focused on leveraging empathy for personal and social transformation. I teach Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation at McGill University and co-founder of PVM-Studio, a global advisory firm that supports purpose-driven people and organizations. Learn more about my work here.