Item 1601 - Coping with the seven o'clock news: compassion in a callous world

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CA ON00389 F4-9-1-1601


Coping with the seven o'clock news: compassion in a callous world


  • September 1977 (Creation)

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4 p. of textual records

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This item is a 2 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Coping with the Seven O’Clock News: Compassion in a callous world’, published in Sojourners, September 1977, Vol. 6, No. 10, pp. 15 & 18. Within the article is a separate article by Henri Nouwen called, ‘Portrait of Compassion” about his friend Joel Filartiga, which includes a full page illustration by Dr Filartiga, pp 16 & 17. In the first article Nouwen describes how hard it is for most people to feel a sense of compassion when inundated nightly by ‘pictures of starving babies, dying soldiers, burning houses, flooded villages and wrecked cars’. He attributes this difficulty in feeling compassion to the sense of being overwhelmed by the massiveness of it and our inability to feel we can do anything. Nouwen then says ‘When information about human suffering comes to us through a person who can be embraced, it is humanized’. He uses Thomas Merton as an example of one who received letters from all over the world speaking about human suffering and says, ‘ In these letters Merton saw the world with its pains and joys; they drew him into a real community of living people with real faces, real tears and real smiles’. Nouwen uses this as an example to suggest that compassion must be rooted in solidarity and community. Nouwen suggests that in our world which tends to value difference, uniqueness, it is our sense of community and our common humanity which will bring about compassion.
In the article about Paraguayan Doctor Joel Filartiga Nouwen speaks of the doctor’s life serving the very poor of his area, of his defense of the poor and his sharp criticism of the regime. He suggests that because the government could not hurt Joel, they kidnapped, tortured and killed his 17 year old son. Nouwen believes that through the father’s suffering for his people and his son, came very powerful drawings which Nouwen and his fellow authors wanted to use in their writings on compassion.

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Existence and location of originals

Original published article is found in Archives bound volumes: Sojourners, vol. 6, 1977.

Existence and location of copies

Preservation photocopy available in Articles by Nouwen Access Copy Box 1.

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See also offprint known as Articles on Compassion, September 1977-April 1978, filed in Published Works - Articles Co-authored by Nouwen, box 300, file 1836.

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Publication note

Published in Sojourners 6, no. 10 (September 1977): 15-18.
This article appears in a revised and expanded form in: Nouwen, Henri J.M., McNeill, Donald P, Morrison, Douglas A.: Compassion: A reflection on the Christian Life, Image Books, Doubleday, N. Y., 1983

Notes area


Item is first of a series of eight articles on compassion.
Sojourners August 1977 journal is labelled no. 8 and October 1977 is also no. 10.
There are two full page drawings: P. 14 is attributed to Photoworld ; p. 16 is by Joel Filartiga.

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2000 01


Box 295

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