Inter-religious exchanges and Maritime Silk Road

From:Voice of Longquan     Author:Ven. Master Xuecheng     Time:2015-05-31 21:22:18
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With the advances of globalization and modernization, mankind has increasingly become a community of shared destiny. We are all inter-linked and inter-dependent. In such a community, if peace, development, cooperation and win-win situation between all countries depend on the mutual accommodation and cultural exchanges between all civilizations, the ideal of harmonious co-existence among different civilizations will depend on unobstructed exchanges and peaceful interactions between many religions.

Distinguished guests, dear friends,

As a representative of the Chinese religious community, I am greatly honored to have been invited by the China NGO Network for International Exchanges and the ASEAN Foundation, to attend the secondChina-Southeast Asia High-level People-to-people Dialogue in this early summer on Pali Island, known as an earthly heaven. It is a great opportunity for us to share views on how to promote non-governmental exchanges for the construction of the Maritime Silk Road (MSR).

At the ASEAN gathering in October 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping first proposed the strategic vision of “Building the 21stCentury Maritime Silk Road.” This vision provides direction for strengthening cooperation between China and ASEAN, and for establishing a closer “community of shared destiny.” Implementing this strategic vision will not only benefit the people of China and Southeast Asia but also serve as a model for harmonious co-existence among other culturally diverse nations and ethnic groups. The history of friendly exchanges between China and Southeast Asian countries has already formed an invisible bond that closely combines the Chinese and Southeast Asian peoples together.

With the advances of globalization and modernization, mankind has increasingly become a community of shared destiny. We are all inter-linked and inter-dependent. In such a community, if peace, development, cooperation and win-win situation between all countries depend on the mutual accommodation and cultural exchanges between all civilizations, the ideal of harmonious co-existence among different civilizations will depend on unobstructed exchanges and peaceful interactions between many religions. In the historical tide of communication and exchange among different civilizations, the religious ones presented themselves as still water that ran deep and subtly influenced the way people in different civilizations understand such realities as politics, economy and society. 

Religion is the key factor of civilization. History reveals that religions can either sow the seeds of wars and afflictions or become the bridge for harmony and development. Mr. Kofi Atta Annan, former Secretary-General of the UN, observed: “If famous religious and spiritual leaders of the world join hands to appeal for peace, the prospect of peace in the new millennium will be promoted.” Hans Küng, a well-known German philosopher and geologist, pointed out: “There is no peace between nations without peace between religions, and there is no peace between religions without dialogue between religions.” In brief, inter-religious dialogue determines inter-religious peace and has a fundamental bearing on world peace.

Inter-religious exchanges and dialogues can be carried out on three different planes: ultimate faith, ethical practices, and culture and arts. Fei Xiaotong, a notable anthropologist in China, once formulated a guideline for different cultures and civilizations to cope with each other:

“Cherish one’s own beauty

And appreciate that of others.

Enjoy all of them

Thus comes the Great Harmony.”

These principles bear profound insights into human nature, culture and the essence of civilization, so they are also applicable to inter-religious exchanges and dialogues.

I. On the plane of ultimate faith: cherish one’s own beauty; harmonize each other within diversity.

The ultimate faith is the ultimate pursuit of a religion. As far as the ultimate faith is concerned, there are usually considerable differences between major world religions as well as ethnic religions. For example, consider Abrahamic religions, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are monotheistic: followers believe in God and in attaining immortality in paradise in the next life. Hindus believe in three major gods and aspire to a state of “oneness of Atman and Brahman.” Buddhists believe in Shakyamuni Buddha and strive for Nirvana. They strive for liberation from the six realms of cyclic existence, or even Buddhahood, the perfect and complete enlightenment. Taoists believe in Laozi and pursue longevity and immortality. The ultimate faith of every religion has been formed over long periods of time in its particular historical and cultural background and embodies profound psychologicaldemands of people. Therefore, to accommodate the co-existence of multiple religions, exchanges and dialogues on this plane must be conducted in accordance with the principle of “seeking harmony rather than uniformity.”

II. On the plane of ethical practices: appreciate others’ beauty; enrich and complement each other.

Though religions differ on the plane of ultimate faith, they are very similar on the plane of ethical practices. In terms of code of conduct, the Ten Commandments of Moses in Judaism include taboos against murdera, dultery, stealing and false witness against others. Such acts as no killing, no sexual misconduct, no stealing and false speech are also listed among the Five Precepts of Buddhism and Taoism. In terms of principles of conduct, Christianity teaches, “So in everything, do to others as you would have others do to you.” Buddhism advocates “doing no evils and practicing all good deeds.” And Confucianism admonishes followers, “Do not do to others as you would not wish done to yourself.” In terms of fundamental spirit, Christianity intones “love,” whereas Buddhism focuses on “loving-kindness and compassion,” and Confucianism stresses “benevolence.” To sum up, though religions use different expressions, the contents they convey are basically similar. Therefore, different religions should appreciate, enrich and complement each other. 

III. On the plane of culture and arts: enjoy all the beauties; reflect and radiate each other.

Once embodied in the daily lives of people, the ultimate pursuits and ethical practices of religions will gradually yield varied and multi-dimensional cultural treasures, which include the traditions and artistry in architecture, music, dance, literature, clothing, food and folkways. As the sublimation of tradition, art is the most appealing expression of the truest emotions and most beautiful feelings of people. Religious arts, moreover, are extraordinarily refined. They can help people purify their minds with truth, goodness and beauty. For example, “The Harmonic Music of the Miraculous Land,”China’s first Buddhist symphony, was very well received in its May 2007 tour around Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. There are also some places of interest where tourists can experience the art of religious architecture, for example, Ankor Wat (in Cambodia), Wat Phra Kaew (in Thailand) and, of course, Bali Island (in Indonesia). These heritage sites attract numerous tourists from all around the world. To sum up: on the plane of culture and arts, it is very easy for different religions to enjoy all the beauties, reflect and radiate each other.

“The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road” does not embody the dream of any single country or ethnic group. MSR is the shared dream of many countries and ethnic groups. The economic prosperity and social harmony of any country, region or even the whole world can only be achieved through rich cultural accumulations and unfaltering religious beliefs. The cultural exchanges and religious dialogues between China and Southeast Asian countries and ethnic groups, therefore, will provide the necessary foundation and best impetus for building the MSR in the 21stCentury. We hope that this high-level dialogue will enhance our mutual understanding and trust. We also expect that all of us will pay more attention to cultural and religious exchanges and create more opportunities. We believe that, with unrelenting efforts from us all, the “community of shared destiny” will be more harmonious and beautiful. 

Thank you!

Editor:Maurice
Tags:inter-religious exchanges maritime silk road

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