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Declaration Toward a Global Ethic OVERVIEW

While the world’s religious and spiritual traditions differ profoundly with respect to various beliefs and practices, they nevertheless hold in common certain ethical principles. One formulation of this ethical common ground is found in the document, Towards a Global Ethic: An Initial Declaration, issued on the occasion of the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions.

The document identifies four universal directives that offer a basis for a “global ethic”: Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not commit sexual immorality.

These directives are further described and emphasized in the following affirmations: Have respect for life. Deal honestly and fairly. Speak and act truthfully. Respect and love one another.

Towards a Global Ethic then proposes that these affirmations lead to four vital commitments (listed here with excerpts from the text):

Commitment to a Culture of Non-Violence and Respect for Life.
“All people have a right to life, safety, and the free development of personality insofar as they do not injure the rights of others. No one has the right physically or psychically to torture, injure, much less kill any other human being. And no people, no state, no race, no religion has the right to hate, to discriminate against, to ‘cleanse,’ to exile, much less to liquidate a ‘foreign’ minority which is different in behavior or holds different beliefs.” “As human beings we have a special responsibility—especially with a view to future generations—for Earth and the cosmos, for the air, water, and soil. We are all intertwined together in this cosmos and we are all dependent on each other. Each one of us depends on the welfare of all. Therefore the dominance of humanity over nature... must not be encouraged. Instead we must cultivate living in harmony with nature and the cosmos.”

Commitment to a Culture of Solidarity and a Just Economic Order.
“No one has the right to rob or dispossess in any way whatsoever any other person or the commonweal.... No one has the right to use her or his possessions without concern for the needs of society and Earth.”
“We must utilize economic and political power for service to humanity instead of misusing it in ruthless battles for domination. We must develop a spirit of compassion with those who suffer, with special care for the children, the aged, the poor, the disabled, the refugees, and the lonely.”

Commitment to a Culture of Tolerance and a Life of Truthfulness.
“No woman or man, no institution, no state or church or religious community has the right to speak lies to other humans.”
“We must cultivate truthfulness in all our relationships instead of dishonesty, dissembling, and opportunism.... We must courageously serve the truth and we must remain constant and trustworthy, instead of yielding to opportunistic accommodation to life.”

Commitment to a Culture of Equal Rights and Partnership between Men and Women.
“No one has the right to degrade others to mere sex objects, to lead them into or hold them in sexual dependency.”
“The relationship between women and men should be characterized not by patronizing behavior or exploitation, but by love, partnership, and trustworthiness.”
These commitments have profound implications for the inner life of individuals and the shared life of the human community (Quotations from Towards a Global Ethic). First, they “can provide what obviously cannot be attained by economic plans, political programs, or legal regulations alone: A change in the inner orientation, the whole mentality, the ‘hearts’ of people, and a conversion from a false path to a new orientation for life.”
Second, they suggest the outlines of “a vision of peoples living peacefully together, of ethnic and ethical groupings and of religions sharing responsibility for the care of the Earth,” a vision made possible by the discovery and embrace of common ethical principles.