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2016 Eastern Washington Legislative Conference

Interfaith leader tells of effort to have Spokane declare itself a ‘compassionate city’

Skyler Oberst promotes compassion and understanding.

Skyler Oberst, president of the Interfaith Council and delegate to the recent Parliament of World Religions, recently introduced the Charter for Compassion for the Spokane City Council to adopt.  On Feb. 8, the council adopted a resolution to become a Compassionate City.

When his friend Karen Armstrong won the TED prize in 2008, she was granted a wish, which was for world religious leaders and great thinkers to write a one-page document, a Charter for Compassion, that shared the value of every world religion and moral code. 

The charter is available online.

It says compassion is at the heart of all religious, spiritual and ethical traditions, and that “compassion tells us to treat others as we want to be treated.”  It calls for honoring “the sanctity of every human being, treating everyone with justice, equity and respect.”  It calls for cultivating “empathy for all human suffering, even those regarded as enemies.”

Skyler believes people in Spokane are hungry for change.  So he asked people to engage with community leaders.

In addition to encouraging support for that effort, he challenged them to listen to other’s voices and be vulnerable to find common ground, establish trust and act together in the midst of national and local polarization.

“The city needs to know we want compassion in civic discourse,” said Skyler who found in city archives that “Spokane has been diverse for a long time.”

Watch the youtube video of Interfaith Workshop

The first Hindu-American sworn in as a citizen on the courthouse steps had to have the Supreme Court overturn the lower courts ruling that only Caucasians could be American citizens. 

He found that Buddhists and Sikhs farmed the Palouse for 100 years, building railroads. 

The early Jewish settlers lived in a tents in the area that later became downtown.  After the great fire, Jewish financiers bankrolled rebuilding, he said.

“When a swastika is painted on the synagogue or “Death to Islam” on the mosque or a church is robbed, compassion can break down our divisions,” he said.

“When talking to elected officials, we need to be creative, collaborative and compassionate,” Skyler said.  “Compassion transcends. If one person’s rights are violated, all are violated.”

He also told of the Interfaith Council’s Meet the Neighbors opportunities to learn about people of different faiths.

For information, call 360-989-8217 or visit

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