Twelve Days of Compassion with Karen Armstrong (2011/12)

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.

Award Program Outcomes

Outcomes noted in our Community Impact Report include:

  • Hosting Armstrong's State of the Charter for Compassion Global Address and the public unveiling of the Greater Vancouver Compassion Network, part of an international movement to build compassionate communities
  • Co-launching a compassionate cities initiative to 14 Metro Vancouver municipalities with the Greater Vancouver Compassion Network
  • Promoting curriculum developed by the Vancouver School Board to teach high school students about compassion

Select Media & Commentary


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.