Report on the CCRP international seminar – Interfaith exchanges and the shared future for mankind, November 8th – 11, Beijing, China

China Committee on Religion and Peace (CCRP)

The China Committee on Religion and Peace (CCRP) sponsored their second international seminar on Interfaith Exchanges and the Shared Future for Mankind (CSFM) on November 8th – 11th, 2023 at the Presidential Hotel in Beijing. This was the second such seminar, the first being in December 2019 on the eve of the pandemic.

As well as the representatives from China, there were representatives from ten other nations: Australia, Indonesia, Italy (representing RfP Europe), Japan, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru (representing RfP Latin America and the Caribbean) and Timor Leste. Their faith affiliations were Buddhist, Catholic, Islam, Jewish and Protestant. The Chinese representatives represented the Buddhist, Catholic, Confucianism, Islam, Protestant and Taoist faiths.

After the welcoming dinner the night before, the Seminar opened with welcoming remarks by Venerable Pagbalha Geleg Namgyai, President of CCRP, and a prayer. He greeted new and old friends in a world threatened by wars and natural disasters. We must follow ‘the hands of history’ and drew attention to the fact that Xi Jinping had nominated China’s aim as building a Global Community for a Shared Future for Mankind (CSFM). This implied a sustainable security. The Venerable articulated his confidence in peace and in the wisdom and power for religious harmony.

The keynote speech was given by Professor Xu Yihua from Fudan University. He began by mentioning the notion of One Earth with unprecedented changes in this century, adding ‘when the world thrives, China thrives’. He spoke of the ‘four deficits’ (1) deficit of peace, (2) deficit of development, (3) deficit of security and (4) deficit of governance. He spoke at length of the CSFM, mentioning how China and Africa have a shared future.

He suggested that CSFM represents a new vision for greater democracy, development and equality. It rises above the West’s universal values and provides a new vision for humanity. China had developed free global initiatives with 140 pacts and concrete initiatives with the Belt and Road Initiatives. The task was ‘to turn blueprints into actual plans.’

Concluding, Professor Xu noted how the world’s religious landscape was changing and changing quickly. The world was now characterized by pluralism, and much change will come from the global South. It will make religion more inclusive. The role of religion was to bring about connectivity, and this is in line with China’s ancient religious traditions.

The following speakers were allowed 5-7 minutes to make their statement.

The first was Venerable Yanjue, a CCRP Vice-President and President of the Buddhist Association of China. He spoke of the unprecedented challenges the world was facing. He compared it to battering waves. He drew attention to one aspect of CSFM, namely, its respect for diversity such as in the presence of Taoism and Confucianism in China. The Buddhist attitude was to keep open and inclusive attitudes.

Ms. Deepika Singh, the Associate Secretary-General of Religions for Peace International, spoke of life since 2019 with the pandemic and then several wars with huge displacements of people. It was necessary to reach across the divisions with positive peace and reconciliation initiatives. RfP International was working with the UNHCR in joint initiatives with refugees.

Ms. Elga Sarapung, a Protestant from Jogjakarta who is head of ACRP’s Women’s Committee also spoke of the threatening situations. Her Committee was addressing three issues: climate change, human trafficking and conflict in war. She asked, How can our concrete actions achieve our hopes? Her answer was to increase networking and cooperation and to increase concrete action so as to live together in hope and peace. The Women’s Committee would be meeting in Bali in late November to progress their agenda.

Venerable Li Guangfu, a Taois priest, presented by video. He focused on environmental degradation. Respect for nature was the unique wisdom of Taoism; men seeking harmony with nature. The Tao creates and promotes all things. Taoism advocates the true state and evolution of all things. Excessive greed is the key to understanding environmental degradation. It was the Taoist tradition to build temples in places that are in harmony with nature, and his organization had developed an 8-year plan of environmental protection.

Elias Szczytnicki, Secretary-General of the Latin American and Caribbean Council of Religious Leaders, spoke in Spanish of how he cherished this opportunity to speak, showing the inclusiveness of CCRP and its multilateralism, “we need to treat each religion and civilization equally, hence the importance of interfaith exchanges. He spoke of how difficult it was to implement the UN’s SDG goals. 85% pf the world’s population are religious and religious unity is important. Interfaith cooperation on his continent had begun in 2004 and South-South interreligious cooperation had much potential. “Future interfaith summits will inject into the peace process and SDG goals”.

Imam Yang Faming, also a CCRP Vice-President and President of the China Islamic Association, said that the necessity of dialogue had long been in evidence, and Chinese Muslims have contributed to Chinese patriotism, and interfaith dialogue had intensified. There was a need for mutual exchanges.

Mr. Arif Sagran explained how Timor Leste was over 90% Catholic but “Catholic leaders have been exemplary in respecting other religions, and this had been important in restoring Timor Leste.”

Archbishop Fang Xingyao said that as a Catholic he believes that religion is fundamental to culture, and exchanges are very important. The Catholic Church in China was encouraging dialogue with other religions and championing the cause of peace. Vice-President of CCRP, Rev. Wu Wei and President of the China Christian Council, focused on the notion of reconciliation which was in accord with Chinese culture which values harmony above all else.

Mrs. Jhamby Dzhusubalieva who is a Sufi focused on the religious profile of Kyrgyzstan with its 7 million people who are mostly Muslim with about 7 per cent Christian.

In his concluding remarks, the ACRP Moderator, Professor Des Cahill, began by thanking CCRP for sponsoring the conference. The first was held in December 2019 and revolved around three aspects: (a) Religion and Ecological Civilization, (b) the Cultural Values of Religion and (c) Religion and Social Harmony. The emphasis on these aspects had been continued in this conference. “We are living in a time of great unpredictability and limited controllability, and there was always the danger of paranoid nationalism.” He thanked CCRP for its peacemaking initiatives, and every nation like China must work at making peace with its neighbours and its diaspora. In his own country of Australia, one in 20 people have Chinese ancestry. He highlighted the need for Human Fraternity and for Positive Peace with its eight pillars. Several speakers had rightly drawn attention to the pursuit of reconciliation.

Professor Cahill finished with a Sufi Prayer for Peace:

Send your peace, O Lord God, who is perfect and everlasting
That our souls may radiate peace.
Send your peace, O Lord God, that we may think, act
And speak harmoniously.
Send your peace, O Lord God, that we may be content
And thankful for your bountiful gifts.
Send your peace, O Lord God, that amidst our worldly strife
We may enjoy your bliss.
Send your peace, O Lord God, that we may endure all,
Tolerate all in the thought of your grace and mercy.
Send your peace, O Lord God, that our lives may become a
Divine vision, and in your light all darkness may vanish.
Send your peace, O Lord God, our Father and Mother, that we
Your children on earth may all unite in one family.

After the conference, four further visits were made:

Firstly, the group met with the Deputy President of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee, Mr. Batur. Then visits were made to the Beijing Catholic Cathedral, a neo-Gothic construction built in 1888 with long stained-glass window and a special chapel dedicated to Mother and Child. Then the Dongsi Mosque built in 1367 with a special library containing ancient handwritten copies of the Qur’an in Arabic. Then the group visited in the centre of Beijing the very crowded Lama Tibetan Buddhist temple with eight separate prayer halls, each with a large statue of the Buddha. The final visit was to the Zhong Guan Cun Science Park, a hi-tech facility built by China’s 50 largest tech companies with exhibits of AI, driverless cars, surgical robots and an example of augmented reality.


Beijing Dongsi Mosque
Beijing Dongsi Mosque