2011/12: Twelve Days of Compassion with Karen Armstrong

March 19, 2012 - March 30, 2012

Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue hosted a citywide conversation on compassion with world-renowned author and TED Prize winner Karen Armstrong as part of the 2012 Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue. The award recognized Karen Armstrong for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in advancing understanding about and among world religions, and promoting compassion as a way of life.

About Karen

Karen Armstrong is a former Catholic nun who left the convent to study literature, becoming one of the most provocative and original thinkers on the role of religion in the modern world, and a leading international authority on faiths, religious fundamentalism and monotheism.

Her poignant and captivating talks have sparked worldwide debate and healthy discussion. Her bestselling books, including Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life and A History of God, examine the differences and the profound similarities between Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and their impact on world events.

In 2008, she was awarded the TED Prize in recognition and support of her call for a council of religious and spiritual leaders to draw up a “Charter for Compassion" that applies shared moral priorities to foster greater global understanding based on the principles of justice and respect. The project has grown to a considerable international following, and a network of Compassionate Cities is emerging that endorse the Charter and find ways to implement it practically, realistically and creatively.

As a speaker and writer, she asserts that all major religions embrace the core principle of compassion and the Golden Rule, and also emphasizes that many of today’s religions bear similar strains of fundamentalism borne of frustration with contemporary life and current events.

Charter for Compassion

The Charter is a call to restore the Golden Rule to the center of religious, moral and civic life through listening, understanding and treating all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Not simply a statement of principle, the Charter is a summons to take creative, practical and sustained action to create a just economy and a peaceful world.

Drafted in 2009 by a multi-faith, multi-national council of thinkers, leaders and citizens as part of Karen Armstrong's TED Prize wish, the Charter has been affirmed by more than 80,000 individuals, communities, cities and schools. Click here to learn more and to view Armstrong's 2008 TED Prize talk.


The Centre worked with a network of community partners to hold “Twelve Days of Compassion” over the period March 19 to 30, 2012. The resulting events created 5,500 person-hours of community engagement with live audiences and engaged hundreds-of-thousands more to explore the concept of compassion through regional and national media coverage.

March 20, 2012
Presentation Ceremony
Simon Fraser University President Andrew Petter and Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue Academic Director Mark Winston presented the 2012 Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue to Karen Armstrong on March 20.

March 21, 2012
Compassion in Commerce Luncheon
The Compassion in Commerce Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon featured Karen Armstrong in conversation with Carole Taylor, Chancellor of Simon Fraser University and Governor of The Vancouver Board of Trade.

March 22, 2012
Public Lecture and "State of the Charter for Compassion" Global Address
This feature public event of the 2012 Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue programming included a lecture titled “What is Religion?”, the inaugural “State of the Charter for Compassion” global address and the public launch of the Greater Vancouver Compassion Network.

March 23, 2012
Making Your City Compassionate
This breakfast event celebrated compassionate acts by Metro Vancouver municipalities and provided a forum to discuss the role of compassion within the context of the wordwide Compassionate Cities movement and the internationally recognized Charter for Compassion.

March 23, 2012
Islamophobia: A Clash of Ignorance
More than 250 members of the Muslim ummah and civil society attended the event, which more broadly discussed “The Relevance Today of the Life of The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family)."

March 26, 2012
Working Compassion: Educating People to be Compassionate
This one-day academic symposium brought together 100 scholars, researchers and practitioners working in the domain of compassion and related moral consciousness.

March 27, 2012
Compassion into Action: Intergenerational Forum
The Compassion into Action Intergenerational Forum engaged 200 high school youth and significant adults in their lives to put compassion into action.

March 28, 2012
CBC Radio Studio One Book Club: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life
This special episode of the CBC Radio Studio One Book Club featured Karen Armstrong in discussion about her book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.

March 29, 2012
Compassion in Religion
The Compassion in Religion student conference was hosted by Iona Pacific Inter-religious Centre at Vancouver School of Theology.

Award Program Outcomes

Outcomes noted in our Community Impact Report include:

Select Media & Commentary

Compassion is Not 'Soft,' It's the Key to Global Survival, Acclaimed Author Insists
The Vancouver Sun, March 28, 2012 (front page story)

In Search of Compassion
The Vancouver Sun, April 6, 2012

Islamophobia: We Need to Accept the 'Other'
The Globe and Mail, March 26, 2012

Karen Armstrong On The State Of The Charter For Compassion
Huffington Post, March 22, 2012


The Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue is presented to an individual who exemplifies, internationally, the spirit and programs of SFU's Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. Recipients of the award have demonstrated excellence and accomplishments in using dialogue to further complex issues of public importance.