Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

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Join the International Conference on: How Might We Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion?

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International Online Conference on:
How Might We Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion?
Permanently Ongoing

Sub Conference: Interfaith


 Pope Francis Promotes Empathy
"For dialogue to take place, there has to be this empathy."

We cannot engage in real dialogue unless we are conscious of our own identity. We can’t dialogue, we can’t start dialoguing from nothing, from zero, from a foggy sense of who we are. Nor can there be authentic dialogue unless we are capable of opening our minds and hearts, in empathy and sincere receptivity, to those with whom we speak. In other words, an attentiveness in which the Holy Spirit is our guide.  A clear sense of one’s own identity and a capacity for empathy are thus the point of departure for all dialogue......


Finally, together with a clear sense of our own Christian identity, authentic dialogue also demands a capacity for empathy. For dialogue to take place, there has to be this empathy.  Pope Francis


Panel 27 - How Might We Create More Interfaith Empathy?

  • Sheima Salam Sumer (IRAQ)
  • Abdulmonaim Merkt (IRAQ)
  • Amal Damaj  (USA)
  • Adam Ericksen  (USA)
  • Edwin Rutsch (USA)

The discussion is about how to build more empathy among the different religious groups. Our panelists are Christians and Muslims who are located in Iraq and the USA.  Here is a summary of some of the main points of the great dialogue we had together!

 The four sections of this summary are:

  1. The benefits of empathy,

  2. Empathy is taught by all religions,

  3. Some barriers to interfaith empathy

  4. Ideas to foster more interfaith empathy

Huston Smith Talks with Edwin Rutsch about Empathy

 An Interview with Huston Smith, religious studies scholar and author of many books on world religions including The World's Religions.

"I'm a seeker after truth. For me empathy is at the heart of love. We humans are empathetic creatures.'

Sub Conference: Interfaith

Thubten Chodron & Edwin Rutsch: How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Buddhism

Thubten Chodron is an American Tibetan Buddhist nun and a central figure in reinstating the ordination of women. She is founder and Abbess of Sravasti Abbey, a Buddhist monastery near Newport, Washington.

Thubten is active in interfaith dialogue and does Dharma outreach in prisons  She is the author of many books,  including, Cultivating a Compassionate Heart: The Yoga Method of Chenrezig.

How to build a culture of empathy and compassion?

1. Education in schools (how to identify emotions, how to work with them inside, how to express them, how to empathize, non-violent communication)

2. Media (influence what the media reports, what constitutes entertainment? show examples of healthy conflict resolution)

3. Individuals familiarizing themselves with empathy and compassion on a daily basis

4. Workplace (the feeling in the company depends a lot on the leader, talks or courses an working with anger)
Sub Conference: Interfaith

Jeremy Nickel & Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Unitarian Universalists

Minister Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Fremont, California. Organizer in the Interfaith community at Occupy Oakland.

How can we build a culture of empathy?
1. Supporting families
2. Supporting a free and responsible search for truth and meaning
3. Radically change our judicial system
to Restorative Empathy.
Empathy is like seeing the interconnected web of life.  The opposite is seeing ourselves as being disconnected.

Sub Conference: Interfaith

Geoffrey Mitelman: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Judaism

Geoffrey Mitelman is Associate Rabbi of Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester. Compassion is a deep-seated value in every religious tradition. Judaism teaches that the world stands on Torah, on prayer and on acts of loving kindness.

to build empathy? Find specific language and cultural norms to talk about compassion/empathy in particular ways. To "ethicize the ritual and ritualize the ethical."  To use tools that are underutilized because they are sometimes viewed negatively - in particular, making compassion more "unconscious" than conscious and utilizing social pressure...
Sub Conference: Interfaith

Stanly Sears & Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Interfaith 
Unitarian Universalist Minister, Auburn, NY
How can we build a culture of empathy? Religious communities need to be more explicit in speaking about it as a religious value. Instead of spending so much time speaking about personal salvation or imposing what I see as restrictive religious rules (e.g., birth control, homosexuality as sins).  This language demeans others and promotes self-righteousness rather than empathy.
As Unitarian Universalists, empathy has been at the core of our faith. One might call it our version of “applied theology.”
Sub Conference: Interfaith
Michael Lerner on Building a Culture of Empathy
It's great to try to build a culture of empathy. I think part of doing that ought to be simultaneously to be articulating a politics of empathy, and that's what I'm doing with the Network of Spiritual Progressives and Tikkun Magazine. Author of The Left Hand of God: Healing America's Political and Spiritual Crisis.
Sub Conference: Interfaith

 Mutima Imani On Building a Culture of Empathy

 Mutima Imani is Social Justice Minister East Bay Church or Religious Science,
 Faces of the East Bay.  She was also the principle facilitator of the
Oakland Peace Keepers project. She is part of the Empathy Curriculum team and has lead empathy circle panels for the the conference on how to build a culture of empathy and compassion.

She says she likes the concept of empathy because it goes beyond tolerance. Tolerance is, I put up with you, empathy is deeper, it is that I see you as a whole person.
Sub Conference: Interfaith

Elouise D Oliver on the Importance of Empathy

Elouise Oliver is Senior Minister East Bay Church of Religious Science
How to build a Culture of Empathy?
Allow people to cry. Crying we are human and will feel what the other feels. When crying they are feeling their own pain. Now real empathy is happening. Just watching that person in pain, they are starting to empathize now and we don't want to do that. If you can remember your own pain and your own suffering, your own feelings. I can empathize with anyone because I'm a mother. What I know is that every person has a mother.
Sub Conference: Interfaith

 Ronny & Katrine Yttrehus & Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy

Ronny & Katrine Yttrehus are ministers in Oslo, Norway and have been taking the 20 hour Empathic Communication Training with Lisbeth Holter Brudal. They will also take the 40 hour trainer course.  They talked about their experience taking the training and why they want to be trainers in empathic communication? 


A group of members in their congregation will take the training and they would like to make there church an empathic congregation..  Ronny says there's a lot of loneliness in Norway and they want to address that.
Sub Conference: Interfaith



The Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue about Empathy
The 215th meeting of Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue group was held on March 8, 2010, to discuss the topic of empathy:

  • What does it mean?

  • How have we experienced it?

  • Where is it easy - Where is it hard?

  • Is empathy important?

  • etc

The group was facilitated by Libby and Len Traubman in San Mateo, California. The discussion topic was suggested and video taped by Edwin Rutsch. 

Jewish Palestinian Living Room Dialogue on Empathy (Part 1of 2)





Jeremy Nickel - UU Minister at Oakland Vigil for Gabrielle Giffords


2017 02 19 "Cultivating Empathy," Rev. Ned Wight
Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock (UUCSR)
"UU ministerial colleague Nathan Walker, executive director for the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute in Washington, DC, has written a provocative book entitled Cultivating Empathy: The Worth and Dignity of Every Person—Without Exception.

 Drawing from his years as a parish minister in Staten Island and Philadelphia, Rev. Walker challenges us all to resist “otherizing” people by either demonizing or romanticizing them. He challenges us to use our moral imagination as an everyday spiritual practice to increase our capacity to approach others with empathy—and to find our relationships transformed in the process."