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Interfaithfully Speaking: Compassionate Claremont?

by Karen Sapio, Pastor, Claremont Presbyterian Church

Through the long months and years of the COVID-19 pandemic we all longed for the days when things would return to normal. As restrictions ease and infection rates wax, wane, and wax again we are beginning to discover that things will never fully return to the way they were. The slow, erratic transition into the post-pandemic world presents us with choices about how to respond to the changes that came to us in the last two and a half years. Will our community emerge stronger, more courageous, and more willing to tackle difficult challenges together? Or will the forces of polarization and mistrust leave us paralyzed in the face of the challenges ahead?

Around the world, a number of communities are partnering with the Compassionate Cities movement as one way of setting priorities and developing capacity to move forward in a positive way to the challenges facing their communities. Compassionate Cities is an initiative stemming from the Charter for Compassion, an interfaith, international declaration unveiled in 2009. It states:

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 center of our world and put another there, and to honor 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.

Cities joining the Compassionate Cities movement pledge they will strive to place compassion at the center of their policies and plans. Pomona declared itself a Compassionate City in 2018 as did Rancho Cucamonga in 2017. In March 2022, Upland declared itself a Compassionate City by unanimous vote of its city council. The resolution adopted by the council begins with the declaration:

“The City of Upland is a Compassionate Community that aspires to be compassionate and encourage community service to meet the needs of our families, friends, communities, and neighbors,”

In Pomona, Compassionate Cities partners promote projects around a theme and recognize individuals and organizations who submit projects. Recent themes have included health and wellbeing, and forgiveness and resilience.

This spring, the Claremont Interfaith Council began to consider the possibility of working toward bringing Claremont into the network of Compassionate Cities. While the council has had some productive conversations, we know that moving forward will require a much broader conversation among individuals and groups in our city. Indeed, the Charter for Compassion’s guide for communities that are considering this step states:

It all begins with a conversation. Most frequently with a group of like-minded people who are concerned about what is happening in their local community and in the world.

The Claremont Interfaith Council is working with other community leaders to host some initial conversations about what becoming a Compassionate City might offer Claremont as we seek to navigate the road ahead. The interfaith council will be sponsoring a community conversation on the the benefits of becoming a Compassionate City in the near future. Watch the COURIER for more information.

In the meantime, you can read more about the Charter for Compassion and the Compassionate Cities movement here: https://charterforcompassion.org/.

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