Scholarly article on topic 'The Tolerance and Harmony of Chinese Religion in the Age of Globalization'

The Tolerance and Harmony of Chinese Religion in the Age of Globalization Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

Share paper
OECD Field of science

Academic research paper on topic "The Tolerance and Harmony of Chinese Religion in the Age of Globalization"

Available online at

SciVerse ScienceDirect

Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 77 (2013) 205 - 209

Selected Papers of Beijing Forum 2010

The Tolerance and Harmony of Chinese Religion in the Age

of Globalization

Liu Jinguang

Senior Fellow, Center for Religious Research of China

© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Beijing Forum

Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The current world has been impacted by the wave of globalization. Everyone couldn't shake off the

influence of globalization. Globalization is a new stage of the progress during the development of world

history which has been increasing the interaction of human being. It not only has been increasing the social mobile, the opportunity of exchange each other, closing the relationship between different nations and ethnics, making people to commonly enjoy the achievements of spiritual and material civilization of human being, but also going up the friction even conflict between different cultures, religions, systems and ideologies. Especially after the Cold War, the distinctive features of international religion are quite complicated with the development of globalization: the development of religious fundamentalism is very fast on the one hand, the trend of religious secularization is also developing very quickly on the other. The contradictions, clashes and even conflicts in the name of religions or caused by religions are sharpening on the one hand, the appeals for peace, tolerance and harmony by religious groups and leaders are also rising to an unprecedented height on the other hand. The global migration and cultural exchange are enhancing on the one hand, the phenomena of cultural barriers and guarding against each other are nothing new on the other.

Under the global interaction, there is a mingling of good and bad, so you can't easily tell them apart. Therefore, our global family will not be able to enjoy the achievement brought by the globalization comfortably and happily. For the sake of changing this situation, the international community has been making a sustained efforts. Different kind of dialogues, symposia and conferences have been carrying on continuously.

China now has 23 million Muslims, over 20.3 million Protestants and 5 million Catholics. Most Buddhist monasteries are packed with endless streams of pilgrims and believers and they are too many to be numbered. There are over 105,000 religious sites for Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism and Catholicism. Clergy and other religious workers total over 300,000. There are more than 3,000 religious bodies and 78 religious seminaries and colleges in China. The Chinese religious communities has established links with their partners in nearly 80 countries and regions in the world.

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Beijing Forum doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.03.079

How the Chinese religions react to the tide of globalization? I believe that Chinese religions reply the challenge of globalization through their accustomed tolerance and harmony.

First of all, the Chinese splendid civilization along with a long history and upholding "harmony" has provided a rich growing soil for the tolerance and harmony among different religions in China. On the several thousand years history of Chinese civilization, there were few scornful and violate mutually between different civilizations but more respect and appreciate each other; there were less cases in which the weak were the prey of the strong but more tolerance; there were a little of competition between superior and low-grade but more equal treatment and moderation; there were less indulging in self-admiration but more mutually complementary in the civilization. All of these characteristics focus on one point, that is "harmony but difference, mutual appreciation and peaceful coexistence." Whatever it's the native-born one or the non-native, the Chinese religions have been growing on this soil with this traditional Chinese culture. Therefore, as time passes, the Chinese religions have had the characteristics of Chinese culture, otherwise, they also have made contribution for the shaping of Chinese culture. Facing the impact of the tide of globalization, we can have the confidence that the Chinese religions are standing on this kind of land, and basing themselves on this kind of tradition, which will definitely benefit world religious tolerance and harmony.

Secondly, the Chinese religions have shaped their own characteristics of tolerance and harmony during the development of themselves respectively. Only the Taoism is the indigenous one among the five main Chinese religions, all of the others was introduced from the outside of China. Nowadays, however, all of them have become Chinese people's own religion. During this process, these religions spread from the other countries have been adjusting themselves to the Chinese situation continually, assimilating and melting in the Chinese traditional civilization.

For example, Buddhism spread into China from India more than 2000 years ago; it had inherited the thought of nonviolence and non-killing of living things from Brahmanism and Jainism, furthermore, it had assimilated this thought to be its basic commandments. Chinese Buddhism encourages people to put out the desire, non-killing of living things, all living creates are equal, don't allow racial oppress to existence. So, the peaceful coexistence between societies, nations and people could be guaranteed. These thoughts of equality and mercy have become the cornerstone of the Chinese Buddhist thought of peace, tolerance and harmony. The Buddhists always have mercy at heart.

Chinese Taoism had inherited the peaceful thought of Taoist School (note: school of thought originating in the pre-Qin period, with the main representatives being Laozi and Zhuangzi, advocating nature and the natural course of things) which is "the essence is consistent with the nature", and advocate that the human being must adopt natural laws when dealing with the relationship between all creatures and himself. The human being must take the heaven and earth as norm, and defend the innate nature of all creatures' growing process but don't destroy the innate nature artificially. There are many peaceful thoughts covered in Taoist's scriptures, such as Lao-tzi, Classic of the Way and Virtue, Pao-p'u-tzu, which are still making contribution for the world peaceful cause.

Chinese Islamism had kept up the fundamental religious doctrine after its spread into China at 651 of Tang Dynasty, it also integrate with Chinese traditional culture. Finally a Chinese Islamism with Chinese characteristics had taken shape which hold peace and pure, favour dialogue, not confrontation, and moderation.

It was a short time for Protestantism and Catholicism to enter into China after the "Opium War" in 1840, and they were entirely the foreign religions for Chinese people at that time. Undergoing the movement of "Three-selves and patriotic", Chinese Christians have reached the goal of maintaining church independence and keep the initiative in their own hands. They advocate that "harmony with the heaven, harmony with the people, harmony with the society", and they also positively promote the principle of "peace" and "harmony" which is covered in the Bible so as to guide the Christians to live in harmony with the other Chinese people and commonly defend the cause of peace.

All of the five main religions in China have absorbed the thought of "harmony is prized" from the Chinese traditional culture, and assimilated into their religious doctrines, creeds, canons and behaviors. They also melted and absorbed each other, and finally the situation of "multiple co-existence and harmony" of Chinese religions has been shaped. Additionally, Chinese religions have also melted with the dominant ideology Confucianism for a long time; they are influent and infiltrate each other. For instance, the phenomena of Confucius, and Buddha and Laozi are commonly worshiped in one temple can be seen everywhere in China. The experience of Chinese religions could be drawn on by the international religious community in this regard.

Thirdly, the traditional characteristics of Chinese religious tolerance and harmony has been carried forward in the new times, and have been making new contribution for China's social harmony and world harmony. In recent years, the Chinese religious circles have tried their best to positively explore the methods and channels of how to play the positive role of religion on promoting social harmony, and have got plentiful results. On the one hand, the Chinese religious circles exert themselves to develop the fine tradition of "being glad to give to charities, rescuing the endangered and succoring the poor, serving for the society, concern and care the crowd." Every religion positively exploits its advantages to the full to participate in the activities of "helping the poor and providing disaster relief' (such as tsunami in Indonesia, earthquake in Sichuan and Yushu of China, disaster caused by a windstorm in Taiwan, and so on), supporting and help the learners, helping the disabled people, protecting ecological environment, and so on, striving for setting up every social public welfare and philanthropical projects.

On the other hand, the Chinese religious circles have been making efforts to bring out the idea of "harmony" from every religious scriptures and doctrines, and to do their best to make explanation of these religious scriptures, doctrines which could adapt to the development of times and meet the requirement of social progress. Chinese Buddhism has been devoted itself to the practice of "Buddhism on Earth". For example, the Buddhist Association of China and the China Religious Culture Communication Association had jointly organized two sessions of the "World Buddhist Forum" in April, 2006 and March, 2009 respectively. The first session focused on the theme of "A harmonious world begins in the mind." The second one was "A harmonious world, a synergy of conditions". Both the two forums were aimed to discuss how Buddhism can contribute to building a harmonious world. These events have exerted an influence on the world widely and deeply.

The Chinese Protestantism is positively carrying on the Reconstruction of Theological Thought in recent years, in order to construct an ethical and moral religion. All of these efforts have made Chinese Protestantism to appear a new face. China has printed nearly 70 million copies of Bible during more than 20 years.

There were 9 million copies among them were printed for the oversea churches, which made the Bible also "Made in China". The Chinese government grants Bible printing and distribution a policy of exemption from taxation, the price of one copy of Bible in China is only around one US dollar. From 2004 to 2007, China Christian Council had organized the "The Exhibition of Chinese Church Bible Missionary" in Hong Kong, America (Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York) and Germany (Kalong and Bavaria). Now CCC are preparing a new Bible Exhibition in Washington DC next year.

Chinese Taoism has the fine tradition of upholding and promoting harmony. They are actively exploiting "Living Taoism". In April, 2007, the Taoist Association of China organized the "International Forum on Tao Te Ching", which put forward a slogan "A harmonious world through the way of Tao". The forum issued a declaration which said mutual respect and peaceful co-existence of different culture, nationalities and religions are the foundations for building a harmonious world. "May the great Tao infuse the world and all under heaven live in great peace," the declaration said.

Chinese Islamism is conducting the explanation of Koran in order to further bring out the fine tradition of Islamism so as to adapt the social progress. Chinese Catholicism is enhancing the construction of system and vigorously promoting to handle the church in a democratic way.

At present, the five main religions of China are carrying out an activity of creating "harmonious Chinese religion, harmonious temples and churches". In the meantime, the Christianity and Islamism of China are promoting religious dialogue each other in order to explore some experiences to contribute world religious dialogue. In addition, the five main religions in China have organized the Chinese Religious Peace Commission which aims at unite Chinese religious groups and believers to defend and participate in world peaceful cause, and to develop the friendly exchanges with the other religious peace organizations in the world in order to commonly promote and safeguard world peace. They have participated in a lot of world peaceful activities. Meanwhile, the Chinese religions also positively participate in different kind of international dialogue on civilizations such as ASEM Interfaith dialogue.

Finally, the Chinese government has made a lot of policies and laws to guarantee and maintain the tolerance and harmony of Chinese religions. The policy of freedom of religious belief practiced by the Chinese government is the most tolerant one in history of China. Chinese government treat every religion equally regardless of it's big or small, strong or weak, there is no any unfair for religions. There are neither state religion nor dominate religion in China. All of the religions in China have enjoyed the equal position and treatment regardless of the original religion or the foreign religion. In fact, the lowest one of the development and the smallest one of the scope among the five main religions in China is the indigenous Taoism. The Chinese government doesn't give special treatment to original Taoism.

The other tolerant policy is the entire Chinese citizen enjoys the equal position and treatment regardless of religious believer or unbeliever. Although there are more than one hundreds million population believe different religion in China, compare with the huge population of the whole country, the population of religious believer are still in the minority. In order to protect the minority religious believers who only account for 10% of the population, the government had formulated strictly policies and laws to forbid discriminating and persecuting minority religious believers. It absolutely will be punished in accordance with the law if it happened. It's to say that the citizen's right of freedom of the religious believes is protected by the law. Not only has the Constitution of P. R. China regulated the principle of "citizen has the right of freedom of religious belief, every religion in China is equal, the religion and politics is separated", but also the newest Regulations for Religious Affairs which was implemented in 2005 aim at "safeguard the citizen's right of freedom of religious belief, uphold religious concord and social harmony." In the meantime, the religious believers in China must obey the laws, and can't interfere in the state's politics, education and judicature. The Communist Party of China doesn't believe any religion, however, it could treat every religion equally, and it could maintain an even-handed attitude for every religion. To handling the relationship of every religion, the Chinese government institutes the principle of "solidarity and cooperation on politics, mutual respect on faith" for different believers. At the same time, the Chinese government positively supports every religion to do its best to bring out and carry forward the contents of benefit to the progress of the times and social harmony, in order to better serve for the society, benefits the crowd. For the foreign relations, the Chinese government supports the Chinese religious groups to positively carry out friendly contacts with its partners in other countries on the basis of independence; equality and friendship, mutual respect each other, and widely participate in the causes of world peace, environment protection as well as disarmament, so as to play Chinese religious groups' positive role on building up the harmonious world. Especially after the reform and openness, China put into practice a policy of further tolerating the new foreign religions which are outside the five main religions in China, because with the development of globalization, there are more and more foreigners coming into China for the purpose of engaging in trade, study, work, travel, and even settling down in China. Fully considering their religious background, the Chinese government has made more tolerant policy and regulations in order to respect and protect the freedom of their own religious believes.

The above-mentioned several viewpoints are both the necessary approach for the Chinese religions to ensure religious tolerance and harmony facing the impact of globalization and the vital foundation for the Chinese religions to make contribution for the global religious tolerance and harmony. I am sure that through the Beijing Forum, it must further enhance the mutual understanding and communication between

different countries and different faiths; deepen their trust and friendship each other. I also believe that the Chinese religious circles would like to work hand in hand with their partners in the world so as to abandon prejudice, carry out dialogue honestly, enhance communication, share experiences, therefore, the Chinese religions must make their own contribution for the world religious tolerance and harmony.