China's religions, as an important part of the social forces, may play an active role in helping build a harmonious society in the country if they are properly guided, a top official who is in charge of the country's religious affairs said Friday.
Ye Xiaowen, director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, made the open remarks in an exclusive interview with Xinhua, the first ever in a decade since Ye took office in a country with more than 100 million faith followers.
"Religions are one of the social forces that are worth much attention in the country's social and economic construction," he said. "They can play an active yet unique role in many aspects."
Ye said the Chinese government will work to help the religions restrain their negative elements and promote their positive ones through enhancing management according to the law and adhering to the established practice of running religious affairs in an independent and self-support way.
"This is the fundamental basis on which that Chinese religions may exercise their roles," he said.
According to Ye, China's religion departments at various levels will work to help the religions to that end.
"Such work will also offer possibility to the government to undertake the religious work in a more creative manner, thus scoring more achievements," he said.
Ye said all religions, including Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism, can tap the positive elements in their tenets and teachings and combine them with China's current circumstances.
"But their concrete manners may vary accordingly," Ye said. "So that the real situation of different religions can be adequately taken into consideration."
He said one of the key tasks of the religion departments in the country's ongoing construction of harmonious society is to actively help the religions get adapted to the mainstream of the socialist society.
To this end, Ye said, the government may suggest realistic directions for the religions from a friendly and constructive viewpoint and channel them to take part in the country's construction.
"What is important is that the work should be done on a legal basis," he said.
First of all, Ye said, the government will guide the religions to try to explain their tenets in ways that are in line with the requirements of the development of the society.
Since most of the faith followers' understanding of the tenets root in teaching and explanation by the priests, Ye said, the followers will act towards the helpful direction if they teach and explain to that effect.
"If the priests teach and explain from a harmful direction, the followers would act in the opposite direction or even extreme way, " he said.
He gave the example that some Islam classics are misinterpreted by some people, saying that Islam itself pursues peace.
He said that] it is unfair that "Jehad", meaning conquering selfish desires of humans at the beginning, was explained by some as inconsiderate violence and confrontation.
According to the latest tenet explanation by the China Islamic Association, "Jehad" means the fight for justice or against invasion.
Other religions are also facing the need of fresh explanation of their tenets to keep pace with the social development, he said.
In China, he said, the construction of Protestant theology, the democratic running of Catholic affairs and the human-centered new Buddhism all need to be rendered with new explanation that are in accordance with the development of the society and the progress of the time.
"Such explanation will convey positive and beneficial contents to worshippers and direct them to practice faiths rightly," he said.
Besides, the government will guide the religions to take part in causes for public good such as supporting the aged, medical care, disaster relief and poverty reduction, Ye said.
In his view, sound and helpful contents with religious tenets, ethics and culture can be extracted to offer powerful support for the development of the advanced culture of the Chinese nation.
"There are a great deal of useful concepts, like peace, non-violence, harmony and balanced development, in Chinese religions, especially traditional ones, which can help advocate environmental protection and promote peace," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency July 21, 2006)