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Many faiths, one kind city

Round Table hopes to get Winnipeg signed on to Charter for Compassion

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From left: Noah Erenberg, Radhika Abeysekera, Julie Turenne-Maynard, David Newman, Gary Senft and Darcia Senft.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

From left: Noah Erenberg, Radhika Abeysekera, Julie Turenne-Maynard, David Newman, Gary Senft and Darcia Senft. Photo Store

When someone pauses to hold a door open for her, Winnipegger Sandy Hyman sees it as a small act of compassion.

"Someone is being thoughtful and I benefit," says the retired social worker and longtime member of the Interfaith Round Table.

"It doesn't happen all the time, because people are in a hurry."

Hyman and the approximately two dozen other members of the Round Table hope small and large acts of kindness on a community-wide level can lead to this city becoming a more compassionate place.

They're working on getting Winnipeg signed on to the Charter for Compassion and officially recognized as a compassionate city.

Launched in 2009, the Charter of Compassion (www.charterforcompassion.org) is based on the golden rule of treating others as we would like to be treated.

To become a compassionate city, the local government signs the charter, issues a public proclamation and submits a one-year action plan.

So far, the idea is only in the talking stage in Winnipeg. But signing on to the charter for compassion holds the community to a new standard, explains Perry Kimmelman, one of about a dozen Winnipeggers who travelled to Louisville, Ky., last spring for a conference on compassion.

"It allows us to live it and hold us to it, because if we declare it, we have to do it," explains Kimmelman.

"It's formalizing how we live."

While the official designation is a political action, becoming more compassionate happens right at the neighbourhood and community level as well, says artist Manju Lodha, who has devoted her life to educating children about diversity and multifaith issues.

"As a grassroots person, I'd like to see compassion on the streets and outside the institutions as well," says Lodha, who practises Hinduism and Jainism.

"In all the religions, compassion is common to us. I think it's important we unite."

Although compassion is not exclusive to faith groups, what happens in local congregations can have a spillover effect in their neighbourhoods, says Gerry Labossiere, who is heading up the $7-million capital campaign for renovations at St. Boniface Cathedral.

As a Roman Catholic, Labossiere says he's recently become more aware of the value of contemplation and personal growth and sees that internal work as important to community efforts to build a caring, just city.

"Compassion does involve action. It's the link between contemplation and what we have to do in society," says the former city auditor.

"If I start with me, then I can work with people around me, and then we can work with the community at the systems level."

Whether or not Winnipeg ever attains the official designation, Hyman hopes she and others have opened the door to more discussion -- and even action -- about what it means to be good neighbours to each other.

"The purpose of it is to learn more about each other and partner when things get rough."

For more information about the creating compassionate cities, visit www.compassionateaction.org.

brenda@suderman.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2013 D15

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