World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch/photo by Daniel Ammann

DCL

Karen Armstrong's take on religion, motivated by her experience as a Catholic nun and inspired by the study of modern literature, is one that emphasizes similarities over differences and compassion over judgment. Her books commonly spark controversy—indeed, her views tend to be inconoclastic—but her desire is to align religious leaders along principles of "universal justice and respect."

This wish has been recognized by the TED Prize, an award that seeks to grant "One Wish to Change the World." Karen Armstrong explained:

I wish that [TED] would help with the creation, launch and propagation of a Charter for Compassion, crafted by a group of leading inspirational thinkers from the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and based on the fundamental principles of universal justice and respect.

TED answered her call and gave Armstrong the means to make her dream a reality.

Now, the Charter for Compassion is complete and will be unveiled on November 12, 2009. Though the document already has a long history, and has brought together thinkers from across religions and around the world, its basic principle is simple.

Based on the assertion that "there is an urgent need for a new focus on compassion" the Charter "seeks to remind the world we already share the core principles of compassion."

Since her first call to action, the Charter has grown and evolved. As people contributed, one after another, until it was a document made from thousands of voices, it has truly taken on a life of its own. This central life force, it is hoped, will give the Charter the vitality and strength it needs to change the way the world thinks.

Return to the Golden Rule. It seems like such a simple and small idea. And it's proving that simple things can have a huge impact.