Support for the role of Buddhism and other religions in the course of building a prosperous and harmonious world will continue to receive support from the Chinese government, a senior official said Wednesday.
Meeting participants at the First World Buddhist Forum, Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said, "Building a harmonious world requires the concerted efforts of the people of all nations and an active role played by various civilizations and religions."
Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Jia Qinglin(L) shakes hands with the 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu during the World Buddhist Forum.
The theme of the forum -- "A harmonious world begins in the mind" -- was significant, said Jia, adding the forum would strengthen exchanges and cooperation between Buddhists worldwide. The theme enunciates the call of Chinese President, Hu Jintao, for a harmonious society and world. .
The First World Buddhist Forum is being held in the scenic city of Hangzhou and nearby Zhoushan in the eastern Zhejiang Province from April 13 to 16.
The first of its kind in China's 2000-year Buddhist history the Forum is sponsored by the Buddhist Association of China and the China Religious Culture Communication Association.
More than 1,000 monks and religious experts from 33 countries and the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan are attending.
Participants will focus on issues of Buddhism's unity and cooperation, social responsibilities and peaceful missions to spur efforts for a peaceful, prosperous and harmonious world.
Buddhism has been developing in China since its introduction from India more than 20 centuries ago. It is estimated there are approximately 100 million Buddhists in China.
"The Chinese government has fully implemented the policy of religious freedom," Jia said. He noted that all religions were treated on an equal footing.
His words were echoed by Qi Xiaofei, vice-president of China's Religious Culture Communication Association, who pledged the government would continue to safeguard freedom in religious beliefs.
But the official, also deputy director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, acknowledged that Buddhism, with such a long history in China, is more closely related to the country's traditions and had a profound impact on Chinese culture.
"Chinese culture values the concept of harmony which is quite similar to Buddhist doctrines," he said. "That's why Buddhism is popular in China", he said. He pointed out that it required consensus and support from believers as well as public understanding and cooperation to hold an international religious conference.
"Everything hinges on the essential conditions," he said. "These things happen naturally if conditions are ripe," he said in response to a question on the possibility of holding international forums on other religions.
The forum was first proposed in 2004 by eight disciples from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The proposal won support from Buddhist circles in 41 countries worldwide including Japan and the Republic of Korea.
Jia Qinglin(2nd. R) talks with the representatives of the World Buddhist Forum.
Jia Qinglin(L) shakes hands with a representative.
(Xinhua News Agency April 13, 2006)