Meeting calls for religions with Chinese characteristics

By Kou Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2016-4-25 0:43:01

Official stresses localization of foreign religions

The government will guide religions practiced in China to be compatible with socialism and keep its support to sinicize foreign faiths, said President Xi Jinping at a rare conference that is supposed to allow the Communist Party of China (CPC) to seize the initiative in running the country's religious affairs.

Addressing a conference on religions on Saturday, Xi said religious affairs carry "special importance" in the work of the CPC and the central government, and promised to fully implement the Party's policy on religious freedom and help religions adapt to the socialist society.

"It has been 15 years since the last national religious working conference was held in 2001. The unusually long interval shows that the country's religious situation is good in general, though new situations and problems have also emerged," Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the Ethnic and Religious Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang presided over the two-day meeting, attended by other top leaders including Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, and Wang Qishan.

According to Zhu, China now faces new religious situations and problems, including the increasing number of religious people, religious extremism, and foreign forces' infiltration in China through religions.

According to the State Administration for Religious Affairs, China has more than 100 million religious believers and 139,000 approved religious sites, and the number is on the rise.

Officials from several provinces and autonomous regions also spoke during the meeting, including representatives from Hebei Province and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

"Hebei Province has a large number of Catholics, while Ningxia is home to many Muslims. The arrangement shows the government's intention to unite different religious groups, as well as to help them adapt to the socialist society," Li Xiangping, a professor of religion at East China Normal University, told the Global Times.

'Unyielding Marxist atheism'

During the conference, Xi said that one key mission in helping religions adapt to the socialist society is localization.

"We should guide and educate the religious circle and their followers with socialist core values, and guide them with ideas of unity, progress, peace and tolerance," Xi said.

"Promoting the localization of foreign religions is a highlight of the conference, and it's the first time the general secretary of the Party's central committee has given a comprehensive theoretical explanation on the issue," Zhu said.

"Generally speaking, China's religious situation is in good shape, though there are some problems that need to be urgently solved," Zhu said, saying Islam in some regions is inclined toward de-sinicization and extremist infiltration, while the Vatican uses hierarchy to vie for dominant rights over China's Catholics.

"Localization of foreign religions does not mean a denial of their basic doctrines and canons, but to follow the lead of the Party, as well as adding Chinese characteristics to the religions. The localization of foreign religions is beneficial for the country and its people, as well as for religious heritage," Zhu said.

In particular, Party members must act as "unyielding Marxist atheists, consolidate their faith, and bear the Party's tenets in mind," which experts said is timely and important to lay a solid foundation for the country's religious work.

Party members must not seek their own values and beliefs from religions, Xi said, adding that efforts should also be made to help teenagers form a scientific outlook of the world, and guide them to believe in science, study science and promote science.

"In recent years, many Party members, even some officials, have fallen away from the Party's dialectical materialism outlook and found spiritual consolation in religions, which has severely damaged the Party's ideology, organization and work style and disturbed the country's religious work," Zhu said.

"Xi's call for unyielding Marxist atheism highlights the Party's stance on religious work, which is a clear mandate for the country's religious management work," Li said.

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