VI. Multiple Religions Have Long Coexisted in Xinjiang
China has long been a multi-religious country. In addition to several major religions that are structured in accordance with strict religious norms, a variety of folk beliefs are also popular in China. Among these, Taoism and local folk beliefs are native to China, while all other religions were introduced from foreign countries. The history of Xinjiang shows that multiple religions have long coexisted there, with one or two predominant. The region's religious structure is characterized by blending and coexistence.
The formation and evolution of the coexistence of multiple religions in Xinjiang has been a long process:
•Prior to the 4th century BC, primitive religion was widespread in Xinjiang.
•Around the 1st century BC, Buddhism was introduced into Xinjiang.
•From the 4th to 10th centuries, Buddhism reached its peak, while Zoroastrianism proliferated throughout Xinjiang.
•During the late 16th century and early 17th century, Tibetan Buddhism thrived in northern Xinjiang.
•Around the 5th century, Taoism spread into Xinjiang, prevalent in Turpan and Hami areas. During the Qing Dynasty, it revived in most parts of Xinjiang.
•In the 6th century, Manichaeism and Nestorianism entered Xinjiang.From the 10th to 14th centuries, Nestorianism flourished as the Uighur and some other peoples converted to it.
In the late 9th century and early 10th century, the Kara-Khanid Khanate accepted Islam. It started a 40-year-long religious war in the mid-10th century against the Buddhist Kingdom of Khotan, and conquered it in the early 11th century and imposed Islam there, putting an end to the thousand-year history of Buddhism in that region. With the expansion of Islam, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and Nestorianism declined. In the mid-14th century, the rulers of the Eastern Chagatai Khanate (1348-1509) spread Islam to the northern edge of the Tarim Basin, the Turpan Basin and Hami through war and duress. By the early 16th century, many religions had coexisted in Xinjiang, with Islam predominant, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and Nestorianism gone, and Buddhism and Taoism surviving. The coexistence has continued to this day in the region. In the early 17th century, the Oirat Mongols accepted Tibetan Buddhism. Beginning in the 18th century, Protestantism, Catholicism, and the Eastern Orthodox Church reached Xinjiang.
Xinjiang now has multiple religions, including Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and the Eastern Orthodox Church. It has 24,800 venues for religious activities, including mosques, churches, Buddhist and Taoist temples, with 29,300 religious staff. Among these, there are 24,400 mosques, 59 Buddhist temples, 1 Taoist temple, 227 Protestant churches (or meeting grounds), 26 Catholic churches (or meeting grounds), and 3 Orthodox churches (or meeting grounds).
China, along with most other countries, upholds separation of religion from government. No religious organization is allowed to interfere in political and government affairs. No individual or organization is allowed to use religion to interfere in administration, judicial affairs, education, marriage and birth control, to hinder social order, work order and life order, to oppose the Communist Party of China and China's socialist system, or to undermine ethnic solidarity and national unity.
Xinjiang fully respects and protects freedom of religious belief as stipulated in the Constitution of the PRC. Xinjiang respects citizens' freedom to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion. Xinjiang shows zero tolerance to any action that creates disputes between believers and non-believers, between believers of different religions, and between believers of different sects of a religion. Xinjiang always upholds equality for all religions, showing neither favoritism towards nor discrimination against any religion and allowing no religion to be superior to any other religion. Xinjiang always upholds equality for all individuals before the law. Believers and non-believers enjoy equal rights and obligations, and all law violators, whatever their social background, ethnicity, and religious belief, will be punished in accordance with the law.
To survive and develop, religions must adapt to their social environment. The history of religions in China shows that only by adapting themselves to the Chinese context can they be accommodated within Chinese society. The 70-year history of the PRC also shows that only by adapting to socialist society can religions in China develop soundly. We must uphold the principle of independence and self-management of China's religious affairs, and prevent all religious tendency that seeks to divest itself of all Chinese elements. We must develop and encourage secular, modern and civilized ways of life, and abandon backward and outdated conventions and customs. We must carry forward religious practices adapted to Chinese society, inspire various religions in China with core socialist values and Chinese culture, foster the fusion of religious doctrines with Chinese culture, and lead these religions, including Islam, onto the Chinese path of development.