Buddhism held up as healer of social divisions

CHAN SIU-SIN – The South China Morning Post

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 – Copyright The South China Morning Post
Buddhism can contribute to healing community divides and help believers deal with major changes in Chinese society, State Administration for Religious Affairs director Ye Xiaowen said yesterday.
Mr Ye was quoted by Xinhua as saying other religions such as Christianity and Islam could also contribute to the building of a harmonious society, but Buddhism, which pursued an idea of harmony that was close to that in the Chinese outlook, could make a “distinctive contribution”.
“As a responsible country, China has a distinctive thinking and forward-looking policy in promoting world harmony. Religious power is one of the social forces China can draw support from,” he said.
Mr Ye, who is also president of the Religious Culture Communication Association of China (RCCAC), said Buddhism could help believers cope with the fast-changing society, now plagued by a huge wealth gap and increasing social unrest.
“Under globalisation and increasing opening up, China’s development cannot proceed without that of the world and China’s harmony cannot go without the world’s tranquility,” he said.
“China will work hard to build a harmonious society internally while calling for the building of a harmonious world externally.”
His comments come as organisers prepare for the first World Buddhist Forum this week in Zhejiang province , an event co-organised by the Buddhist Association of China and the RCCAC, and due to run from Thursday to Sunday.
The Reverend Chan Kim-kwong, executive secretary of the Hong Kong Christian Council, said Mr Ye made the comments to highlight the World Buddhist Forum. “He has been to Hong Kong to promote the forum before. He wants to continue to support it by making such comments,” Mr Chan said.
Tam Wai-lun, associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Department of Cultural and Religious Studies, agreed with Mr Chan’s assessment. “The reason why he highlighted Buddhism is related to the forum,” Professor Tam said.
He said the central government was at ease with Buddhism because it had less contact with outside forces, which were often seen by authorities as splitting and meddling in China’s internal affairs.
Professor Tam said it was nothing new for the central government to draw support from religion to help strengthen its rule. “The Chinese government has been using a united-front attitude to tackle religion in the country,” he said.

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