Update: On April 19, President Taylor Reveley signed the Charter for Compassionate Schools on behalf of William & Mary, joining dozens of colleges and universities worldwide to "acknowledge the importance of acting compassionately in their communities and the world outside of their schools," according to the website. A brief ceremony will be held April 27 at 5 p.m. on the Wren Portico to formally announce the signing. - Ed.
William & Mary’s Compassionate Action Board will host a panel discussion titled “Religion & Compassion: How and What Religion Teaches us about Compassion” April 3 in the Sadler Center’s Commonwealth Auditorium from 2 to 4 p.m.
The panel will feature five speakers from the Islamic, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and Jewish faiths, gathering to explain and discuss how the concept of compassion is taught in their respective faiths.
“We hope that attendees will learn and understand more about each faith represented on the panel and more about feeling and being thoughtful and towards each other and ourselves,” said Leslie Revilock, adviser to the Compassionate Action Board and I-Faith, William & Mary’s interfaith student group.
The panelists will include Swami Gananath-amrit-ananda (Swami Ji), Lama Chödron Linda Jordan, Imam Rachid Khould, Rev. Daniel Willson, and Rabbi Ellen Jaffe-Gill.
Ji is a Hindu priest who serves as the spiritual director of Soma Matha Organization in Richmond, Virginia.
Chödron, a practicing Buddhist since 1980, is currently on the teaching staff of the Richmond affiliated center of New York’s Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery.
Khould serves as the spiritual leader of the Muslim community in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he is a member of Hands United Building Bridges, an organization of clergy from various faiths that seeks to solve social issues related to race, bigotry and discrimination.
Wilson serves as senior pastor of Williamsburg Baptist Church and is actively involved with a variety of William & Mary campus ministries, through which he pursues his interests in social justice, art and activism.
Jaffe-Gill, the author of No Big Deal and Embracing the Stranger: Intermarriage and the Future of the American Jewish Community, currently lives in Virginia Beach where she strives to reach unaffiliated Jews and spiritual seekers with her joyous, progressive approach to Judaism.
The panel is the latest in a series of events that I-Faith and the Compassionate Action Board have organized to promote awareness and sensitivity among members of various faiths.
According to Revilock, I-Faith began in 2009 as a group of students discussing their diverse faith backgrounds in their residence halls and grew into an organization that both promoted interfaith dialogue and provided community for those with of faiths with fewer numbers and no formal student organization.
The group’s focus on promoting compassion began following the Dalai Lama’s visit to William & Mary in October 2012.
“Rather than continue to have professors speak to the group or talk about religious, political or economic issues in the world, they wanted to reach a larger audience on campus and in the community,” Revilock said.
To further this goal, I-Faith organized a conference and one-credit course on “The Importance of Multi-Faith Understanding and the Dangers of Religious Ignorance” during World Interfaith Harmony Week in 2013. In the process, the group learned of the Charter for Compassion, which, according to Revilock, is a cooperative effort to restore not only compassionate thinking but, more importantly, compassionate action to the center of religious, moral and political life.
After presenting the charter to William & Mary administration to uniform approval, President Taylor Reveley directed the group to form the Compassionate Action Board to be a group of administrators, professors and students working together to find ways to bring compassion to the forefront of all thought and activity at William & Mary through collaborations to promote compassion-based thought, action and academics throughout the campus.
“The Compassionate Action Board’s mission is to have compassion be seen as a core value on campus and to bring it out in all aspects of the College,” Revilock said. “In this event, I-Faith’s goal of interfaith learning and understanding blends with the Compassionate Action Board’s mission.”
In a time when compassion seems exceedingly scarce across the world stage, the panel’s organizers hope that this event will help promote empathy and consideration across William & Mary’s diverse faith populations.“There is so much misinformation, ignorance and in some cases actual lies out there about what a religion or faith believes, and our hope is that dialogue and learning can mitigate some of that,” Revilock said.