Spirit Matters by Shirley Barr – Common Ground –

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February 16, 2013.

CFN– A couple of Sundays ago (February 3), a magical meeting took place in Cornwall, organized by the Cornwall Interfaith Partnership (CIP). The meeting was a celebration of World Interfaith Harmony week with the theme of Common Word- Common Ground- Common Good. The CIP arranged an evening meal shared with diverse people of different religions, ages and interests. The central idea of the meeting which drew around 85 people like a magnet: finding some common ground in order to  increase compassion in the community.

The original idea came from a talk on the TED (Technology, Education and Design) channel where religious scholar and writer Karen Armstrong presented her idea of how to help make the world better. She outlined the Charter for Compassion which she describes in the following video:


We watched the video and then organized into small groups to discuss the ideas that stood out for us during the talk. The fact that so many people would take the time to come together and share their passion for the betterment of their community was impressive. This is the heart of community development. At one point it was mentioned that our religious leaders should be the ones who take the role of championing compassion as a way forward out of the tensions between us. This was countered by the group realizing that, in fact, we are the leaders because we were the ones who had showed up with our hearts filled with the desire to make a change, to cause a shift in how we all work together! It was a joy-filled moment where we looked at each other with new eyes and immediately started to make plans to get together regularly to bring our own Charter for Compassion to reality in our region. You can see the pictures of the event at the following LINK

I am excited about this meeting because it was a coming together of a profound desire to manifest unity in the form of compassion. I was explaining the concept of compassion to a 15-year-old Inuk friend and describing how it is a quality that encompasses justice, equity, kindness and love; compassion brings them all together in  a unique configuration of spiritual muscular strength. My friend’s face became illumined as she realized that she had this capacity within herself; she could tap into this and gain a new sense of identity. We talked about the idea of compassion starting with ourselves – the concept of self-compassion as a starting point. My beautiful friend said these words:

“ We are taught to have self-esteem but I feel that is materialistic as compared to self-compassion which is spiritual. It’s a whole different experience”.

Shirley lives and works in Cornwall Ontario and is a member of the Baha’i Community.