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News > China

Forum in China on Religion and Culture Successfully Concluded

  • A monk is being awarded the degree of Geshe Lharampa in the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, April 2, 2022.

    A monk is being awarded the degree of Geshe Lharampa in the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, April 2, 2022. | Photo: Xinhua/Jigme Dorje

Published 15 April 2022

On April 10th, the 2022 Symposium “Faith, State and Peace. On the Boundaries between Cultures and Religions” was successfully held in Beijing.

More than twenty experts and scholars from Germany, Switzerland, and China participated in the event. Organised by the Hong Kong Eastern and Western Culture Research Association, the symposium featured keynote speakers Prof. Wolfgang Reinhard of the University of Freiburg and Prof. ZHANG Zehong of Sichuan University on the topic of “Boundaries of Religious Freedom".

Prof. Reinhard stated that the influence of ancient Chinese culture was not direct or missionary, yet it had an effective impact on its neighboring states. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there were cross-cultural influences between China and Europe in porcelain and architecture, among others. Europeans were also keen to study the similarities and differences between indigenous Chinese religion and Western Christianity. Leibniz particularly admired the insights of Chinese moral philosophy.

Prof. Zhang mentioned that China, as a socialist state governed by the rule of law, has a tolerant attitude towards religion, and its constitution respects and protects its citizens' right to freedom of religion and belief. Religion has also evolved and progressed by actively adapting to modern society. China follows the policies of freedom of religious belief and of separation of government from religion, and the state laws provide diverse forms for the adaptation of religion to the socialist society.

The scholars also discussed topics such as "Religion and Ethnicity", "Religion and Etiquette", and "Religion, Law and Communication". During the discussion session, Associate Professor CAO Yan from Wuhan University said that, the West, under the slogan of separation of church and state, has further promoted the claim that religion has no borders, that it can expand and infiltrate into other countries at will, and that governments are not to interfere with the freedom of Christian expansion. From the perspective of contemporary "anthropology of religion", this is a clear move from the medieval extreme of “reductionism" in which religion subsumes political, economic and other cultural elements, to the other extreme of “institutionalism", in which religion is separated from other cultural elements. Neither is consistent with the scientific view of "culture" as an "organism" containing four elements: nation, economy, religion, and politics. We therefore oppose the unrestricted expansion of Christianity from the West, and even more so the hostile practice of silent evolution and subversion of power in the name of religion. Regarding religious organisations and institutions such as the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, China Aid Association, the Greater Grace Church, the Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), and the Watchmen for the Nations (Canada), several experts at the symposium, including HUANG Chao, FANG Yong and CAO Yan, shed light on their two faces from multiple perspectives.

Freedom of religious belief, equal cultural exchange and peaceful economic development have become the common pursuit of people around the world. In every country's progress, religion has played an extremely important role in society. Historically, many religions have been introduced to China. From 2,000 years ago, when Buddhism spread eastwards, to 1,300 years ago, when Islam and Christianity came to China almost simultaneously, they exchanged and merged with traditional Chinese culture, with Confucianism at its core, forming a cultural community where multiple religions are compatible and complementary.

Religion, as one of the core elements of a cultural organism, naturally has a national, economic, and political identity of the country. For the sake of world peace and human happiness, we should respect the cultural diversity of all countries.

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