Religious Forum Special / Photos

Forum emphasizes religions as beacon of world peace

By Yuan Shenggao |  China Daily |  Updated:2023-04-04

Reciprocal understanding coexistence highlighted by speakers during annual conference

How religions are able to coexist with each other in harmony, and how different civilizations can learn from one another were the topics of heated discussion in a religious dialogue as part of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2023 in Boao, Hainan province, on Friday.

Co-hosted by the China Religious Culture Communication Association and China Committee on Religion and Peace and jointly organized by the Hainan Religions Affairs Bureau and the Buddhist Association of Hainan, the dialogue attracted participants within religious circles from different countries and regions, and they had extensive and warm discussions on a variety of topics related to the mutual learning among civilizations and the harmonious coexistence of religions.

Four representatives of the religious community from China, Mongolia, Peru and Germany conducted the main dialogue, and interacted with the audience.

Master Yinshun, a member of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, vice-president of the Buddhist Association of China, and president of the Buddhist Association of Hainan, opened the dialogue with a Zen poem, vividly explaining a profound truth: everything in the world is different because of different reasons, and it is their differences that create a diverse and colorful world.

In the dialogue, he reviewed the process of the integration of Chinese culture over thousands of years through the mutual learning among civilizations.

As the only guest speaker to attend the religious dialogue of the BFA Annual Conference seven times in a row since 2015, Yinshun believes that religions should consciously deal with the relationship between politics, economy, culture, society and ecology, and unify the pursuit of the other world with the creation of a better life in the present.

While taking questions from audience members on the crux of mutual learning among civilizations, he pointed out that the key lies in "a transcendental heart", and, as inspired by Chinese civilization, inclusiveness is the magic word to overcome an egotistical superiority mentality that is prone to estrangement and conflicts between different religions and civilizations.

"In Chinese history, the exchanges among different religions have always contributed to the enrichment and perfection of the country's religious system as a whole, so that different religions can flourish together," he said.

Growing exchanges

Sainbuyan Nergui, chief of the Mongolian Sangha Federation and abbot of the Sain Nomuun Buddhist Monastery of Mongolia, agreed with Yinshun, who is an old friend, saying that the need for different cultures to understand each other, integrate with each other and learn from one another is unquestionable after giving a brief introduction on the exchange of Buddhism between China and Mongolia.

Nergui sent Mongolian monks to study at the Nanhai Buddhism Academy in Sanya, Hainan, who, as he said, have mostly become the backbone in the religious field of Mongolia now. "They have learned the Oriental wisdom that makes them more capable of helping others," Nergui said.

Inspired by the positive contributions Yinshun has made to the exchange of Buddhism between the two countries, Nergui said: "I am confident that China and Mongolia, two neighbors and friends connected by mountains and rivers, will see their cooperation continue to flourish in all fields in the future."

In his interaction with audience members on a question about the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nergui said: "The pandemic has not only influenced the way of thinking and spirit of human beings, but also the progress of science and technology. I think it makes the world more aware of the importance of peace, harmony and unity, and tells us that we should have a positive attitude toward life."

Elias Szczytnicki, secretary general of the Latin American and Caribbean Council of Religious Leaders, reviewed the history of South America over the past hundreds of years, during which the Christianity brought over by the Spanish and Portuguese colonists and the local primitive religions went through a process of resistance, conquest and then integration.

He also analyzed that a great change in language, culture and lifestyle happened in South America during that process.

"Although South America and China are far away from each other… they share the same goal of striving for world peace and harmony," Szczytnicki said. "We hope that there will be more platforms like the dialogue in Boao to help promote mutual learning and harmonious development among major religions and civilizations."

Szczytnicki added that he was happy to be invited to the dialogue through which he could share his thoughts. He also spoke highly of the Global Civilization Initiative which was recently proposed, and he believes that religions can play an important role to put it into practice.

Common goal

China has proposed a set of philosophies promoting exchanges and mutual learning among different civilizations in recent years, which are characterized by "equality, mutual learning, dialogue and inclusiveness". These philosophies deeply embody the notion of inclusiveness, coexistence, and harmony in diversity within Chinese civilization and show a genuine sense of equality and humility toward other civilizations.

When asked how to promote religious exchanges between China and South America, he suggested that the two sides can find a lot of common space between each other, relating to the concept of family, climate change and social justices among others, which can help create a broad space to boost common development and cooperation.

He said that his firsthand experience of communicating with the Chinese Buddhism masters has deepened their mutual understanding, and he realized that although there are differences in their religions, they have a common goal of contributing to world peace.

Liu Chengyong, president of the German Taoist Association, reviewed how he learned about the traditional Chinese medicine and the Tao Te Ching in China when he was a teenager. He shared his experience of promoting Taoism in Germany, and demonstrated Taoist standing meditation to the audience, enlivening the atmosphere of the dialogue.

The religious subforum of BFA, since its inception in 2015, has been striving to provide a platform to promote exchanges and mutual learning among religions and civilizations. The aim is to advance the coexistence and integration of different civilizations, cultures and countries, so as to further consolidate the foundation of building the community of a shared future for mankind.


Representatives of the religious community from China, Mongolia, Peru and Germany conduct the main dialogue at a subforum on religion during the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2023 in Boao, Hainan province, on March 31. CHINA DAILY

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