On Friday May 20, 2016, Mayor Aboutaleb of Rotterdam (one of the four largest cities in The Netherlands) signed the Charter for Compassion. The signing took place during Part 3 of Wagner’s Opera Parsifal. In Part 1, the story of Parsifal was told and in Part 2 the spectators were drawn into a play in order to find the lost spear that could cure the wounded king. All teams immediately began battling each other. The similarity with our real world was obvious. Stage manager Arlon Luijten chose this opera to make us realize that there will be no cure for the king and for the community in crisis unless we all work together and show compassion.
After the signing and the opera, Mayor Aboutaleb gave his speech and emphasized the importance of ‘soft powers’ in society today. All the threats and confrontations with violence and terror should never make us forget how important it is to keep seeing others as human beings. We need universal values to remind us, over and over again. He told the audience how impressed he was having heard about two people (one in Pakistan and one in Afghanistan) who were sentenced to death and saved by their victims.
In a video message that Karen Armstrong made especially for Rotterdam, she once more accentuated that the West should pay more attention to civilian casualties in far away wars (Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan) to make clear that all lives are equally valuable.
Rotterdam received congratulations from the mayor of Belfast, the Charter for Compassion Australia, Idaho, Atlanta, Tucson and Louisville. The ‘We-society program’ of the city will, from now on, be strongly connected to the principles of the Charter for Compassion.
Also during this ceremony the new Dutch Compassion Award winner of 2016 was announced. The theme this year was ‘A humane economy’. Heilige Rotterdamse Boontjes, an organization that offers young people with judicial problems the chance to start a new life, is the winner of this year. By buying, roasting, preparing, and selling coffee, the youngsters hone skills that will help them get real jobs. All the money that is earned is being invested back into the organization. The concept is very successful and more and more employers are willing to hire these young people and give them the chance for a new and better life.
Charter for Compassion The Netherlands
(Stichting Handvest voor CompassieNL)