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Engaging Religious Actors in Building a Community of a Shared Future for Mankind
December 22,2017   By:Wim Janse
This paper seeks to explore the potential constructive and constitutive role of religions in building a community of a shared future for mankind and in serving as an important source of human rights inasmuch as they provide “a sense of morality, social duty and concern for one’s fellow human beings”.  I will do so by focusing on core elements from this concept of ‘building a community of a shared future for mankind’ – coined by President Xi Jinping in his keynote speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 17 January 2017 and at the 19th National Conference of the Communist Party of China on 18 October 2017  – and showing how much these elements are core values in the various religions as well, in particular Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. This exploration will take place against the background of the standpoints taken in the last five years by the Communist Party of China (CPC) on religion and its meaning for the Chinese socialistic society. Finally, I will indicate the necessity for more knowledge and a better understanding in the West of China’s policy on religion and will argue for a global dialogue on the role of faith and religion in the public domain in the North and the South and for partnerships and processes to involve religious actors in addressing shared global challenges. Here I will emphasize the necessity for a broad acceptance and application of the Comprehensive Southern Vision on Human Rights.
 
“Helping religions to adapt to socialist society” : The CPC’s Policy on Religion, 2012-2017
 
Before I look at the contribution of religion to building a community of a shared future for mankind I will sketch, in broad outline, the policy of the CPC on the role of religion in the past five years. This period has witnessed a shift in accent with respect to attention for religion: from newly acquired ‘freedoms’ to the ‘responsibilities’ of religions,  in accordance with the so-called ‘unity of rights and obligations’ as a basic requirement of the rule of law and as guarantee of fundamental freedoms. 
 
In October 2012, at the invitation of the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Renmin University of China organised the Second Sino-Ned Religion Conference in Beijing. The conference theme was formulated by Dr. Jiang Jianyong, Deputy Minister of SARA: ‘The contribution of religion to social cohesion in the Chinese society’. For Western ears, this was a new note: “The Chinese government has committed itself to (…) helping religion to play a positive and active role”, Dr. Zhang Xunmou, Director of SARA’s Research Centre, declared.  “In recent years”, Zhang said, “the Chinese government has realized more clearly that religious believers, together with the non-religious believers, can also take an active role in building a socialist society with Chinese characteristics. It has, therefore, taken measures to make it easier for religious personnel and religious believers to play a positive role in promoting social harmony, cultural prosperity and social economic development. A harmonious society needs not only an economical basis and a political guarantee, but also powerful spiritual support and a good cultural basis. (…) Religion possesses enormous harmonious elements. Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Christianity are all rich in resources of harmonious ideas. The unique role of religion should be played in building a harmonious culture”.  Other than during the First Sino-Ned Religion Conference, organised by Vrije Universiteit and SARA and held in the Netherlands in 2009, the concept ‘sinicization’ was discussed at this Second Religion Conference – making (foreign) religions more Chinese and less susceptible to foreign infiltration – albeit still as a circumstance and not yet as a condition for an accepted role of religion in the public domain.