Passing on the Torch to Perpetuate Multicultural and Inter-faith Harmony--2018 UNESCO International Peace Conference Closing Remarks
有鑑於學習落實各宗教經典至關重要，我們從世界十一大宗教聖典中擷取精華經句，編成一本小冊子：《神愛世人》（God Loves All Beings）。希望讀者們認識到，眾神都擁有一體不二的大愛，世界宗教是一家。今年六月至七月間，我在淨空之友社的攝影棚內，與大家分享了十四集學習《神愛世人》的心得。神聖的愛是我們學習的基礎與核心；丟棄基礎，宗教團結的意義就失掉了。所以《神愛世人》這本小冊子，可以幫助我們契入大愛的和諧境界。
Passing on the Torch to Perpetuate Multicultural and Inter-faith Harmony
2018 UNESCO International Peace Conference Closing Remarks
Speaker: Venerable Master Chin Kung AM
Date: Sept. 19, 2018
Venue: UNESCO Headquarters, Paris
Honorable Ambassadors, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
My warmest greetings to you all!
The three-day UNESCO International Peace Conference is coming to an end. In this conference, UNESCO’s leaders and ambassadors, various experts and scholars have come together to share their views. They have delivered important talks on the topics of how inter-faith dialogue can foster peace; the contribution of education in morality, ethics and causality to social harmony; and the importance of inter-cultural and inter-faith mutual understanding for co-existence in prosperity and harmony. We have also held a global Ancestral Remembrance Ceremony during the conference to honor our ancestors and to remember our roots. I hereby would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude and tribute to the peacemakers’ selfless contribution to make this conference a success.
In a relay race, each member or team has a designated distance to complete. Similarly, if each of us can do our part to fulfil our designated mission to advance the cause of multicultural and inter-faith harmony, a path to world peace will thus be created.
The Association of Master Chin Kung’s Friends at UNESCO
Since 2001, we have been working hard to foster inter-faith and multi-ethnicity cohesion in Toowoomba, Australia. Our efforts have produced some concrete results. In March last year, we invited nine UNESCO ambassadors to visit Toowoomba. They were very impressed by what they saw. Upon return to the UNESCO headquarters, an office was set up for me called The Association of Master’s Chin Kung’s Friends. This Association was formally established in last September with a mission to foster religious cohesion; to restore religion as an education; to promote inter-faith learning; and to foster multicultural and inter-faith co-existence in harmony. We believe our work will facilitate the fulfilling of UNESCO’s mission for peace.
Between May and June this year, I had open and frank discussions with over twenty UNESCO ambassadors on how to resolve conflict among different ethnicities and among different faiths. We all felt that the root cause of all conflict is ignorance and we need to use wisdom to resolve conflict. How do we attain wisdom? It must be through religious education.
Learning from the Sacred Texts of All Faiths
The founders of all the world’s faiths were enlightened social educators. Enlightenment is seeing the true self-nature and understanding the truth of the universe and life thoroughly. These religious founders expounded the truth to people and their teachings were recorded in the sacred texts. Their teachings were all about education in morality, ethics, causality and sacred wisdom. Learning and practicing the teachings of these sacred texts will fill our lives with wisdom, and alleviate ignorance.
In view of the vital importance of studying and learning from the sacred texts of all faiths, we have selected core excerpts from the scriptures of eleven of the world’s religions to compile a booklet: God Loves All Beings. We hope that by reading this booklet it will become clear that all religions share the universal love of the One God and all religions are one family. In June and July this year, I did fourteen episodes of videos in the studio of the Association of Master Chin Kung’s Friends to share my learning experience of God Loves All Beings. The divine love is the core foundation of our learning. Abandoning this foundation will lose the real meaning of religious cohesion and unity. Thus, learning from God Loves All Beings will help immerse ourselves in a state of universal love and harmony.
Scriptures 360 is a set of books compiled by a group of religious representatives from Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong. It contains a selection of 360 excerpts encapsulating the most essential teachings of the sacred texts from each of the major religions to facilitate readers to embark on this learning journey.
We must seek to revive religious education and study the sacred scriptures earnestly. One should first study the sacred scriptures of one’s own religion, then, learn from other religions’ scriptures to find commonalities and set aside differences. The ultimate goal is to eliminate conflict, confrontation and misunderstanding so that world peace can truly be realized on Earth.
Harmony PhD Program: Nurturing the Younger Generation
Professor Medwin Hughes, Vice Chancellor of the University of Wales, has recognized the importance of religious education and initiated a new “Harmony PhD Program” to nurture teachers of sacred scriptures for different religions. The first group consists of twenty-five PhD students. Not only will they delve deeply in their own religious scriptures, but they will also study other religions’ texts. They will obtain a doctoral degree in three years. We hope that with a sufficient number of qualified religious teachers developed by this doctorate program, we will establish a “College of Religious Education” which will offer bachelor’s and master’s programs. Over time, we will further expand it to a “World Religious University” where each religion will have its own religious college to develop teachers of sacred scriptures. In the future, the missionaries of different religions will become fellow alumni. Not only will they maintain a harmonious relationship, but they will also teach their followers to do likewise with people of different faiths.
Knowing there are successors in place will give us peace of mind. We hope every religion can return to focusing on education to hand down and propagate religious education from generation to generation. Reviving the education in Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism in the East and religious education in the West will enable us to resolve all conflict. When everyone is taught how to love others through religious education, conflict will not arise. So when people harbor hostility against us, we will respond with goodwill. We deeply believe that people can be taught to be good. Religious education can transform a person from bad to good; and from violent to harmonious.
Frequent Gatherings: Living Together in Harmony and Prosperity
Harmony in the world affects everyone’s welfare. It is everyone’s inescapable duty to create harmony. About 2,500 years ago, the Buddha told us the conditions leading to a world’s welfare or decline in the Nirvana Sutra (Maha-parinibbana Sutta) of Southern Buddhism. At that time, Ajatasattu, the king of Magadha wanted to wage war against the Vajjis. Before starting a war, he dispatched his chief minister Vassakara to inform the Buddha of the situation. After listening to what Vassakara had to say, the Buddha then asked his disciple Ananda, “What have you heard, Ananda: do the Vajjis have frequent gatherings?” Ananda replied yes. The Buddha said if this was the case, the growth of the Vajjis was to be expected, not their decline. The Buddha then asked about the conditions of six other matters concerning the Vajjis: “Do they assemble and disperse peacefully and attend to their affairs in accord? Do they neither enact new decrees nor abolish existing ones, but proceed in accordance with their ancient constitutions? Do the Vajjis show respect, honor, esteem and veneration towards their elders and think it worthwhile to listen to them?” … Finally, the Buddha said if the Vajjis fulfilled the seven conditions leading to welfare, their growth was to be expected, not their decline.
Using this Buddhist parable as a reference, we can make an assessment on today’s world situation. In one of the conversations I had with UNESCO ambassadors, I was told that in some places people oppose any inter-faith dialogue. And in other places, while they are open to having inter-faith dialogue, their real purpose is to pinpoint the contradictions between different religions so as to bring the dialogue to an early end. This is immensely regrettable. It is a view shared by many ambassadors and experts in this conference that inter-faith dialogue can indeed resolve conflict and will bring about social harmony. This corresponds with what the Buddha advocated: “To have frequent gatherings”; “To assemble and disperse peacefully and attend to our affairs in concord”.
Regarding the condition that “neither enact new decrees nor abolish existing ones, but proceed in accordance with the ancient constitutions”, religious education is the best system handed down by the founders of faiths. We should learn earnestly from the teachings in religious education in love, morality, ethics, causality and sacred wisdom and practice what we learn in our daily lives, which in turn will lead to the harmonious co-existence of different cultures and different faiths. This viewpoint has been affirmed by many of the peacemakers participating in this conference.
Regarding the condition that “showing respect, honor, esteem, and veneration towards the elders and think it worthwhile to listen to them”, we have fulfilled this condition by inviting UNESCO’s leaders, ambassadors and experts to this Conference to give us talks to share their ideal and experience.
The Buddha taught us “to have frequent gatherings” as one of the seven conditions leading to welfare. This bears a similar principle as the “Four All-embracing Methods” practiced by us daily. By adopting these four methods, we have fostered cohesion among the nine religions in Singapore and among over ten religions in Toowoomba, Australia. Our success serves as evidence that religious harmony can indeed be achieved and restoring religious education can indeed facilitate social harmony.
The fate of each ethnic group and each religion is closely interconnected and inseparable: damage in one part hurts all; and thriving in one part benefits all. Why don’t we broaden our mind-set and become more inclusive as in letting hundreds of flowers bloom in multi colors on planet Earth? Let’s embrace the cultures and beliefs of different ethnicities to make our own culture and faith more reinvigorated and lively.
The path to realize world harmony may be long and winding. But we need to have unwavering faith and courage to overcome challenges and obstacles, and make all-out efforts to pass down this sacred mission to future generations. Openness and inclusiveness will bring progress to civilization. Narrow-mindedness and rivalry will bring ruin to our home planet. Let’s begin with ourselves to uphold the universal values of equality, co-existence in harmony, mutual learning and co-operation, and say no to selfish benefit, short-sightedness, bigotry, unilateralism, hostility and militarism. Let’s pass on the torch to perpetuate multicultural and inter-faith harmony and make our world a better place where we are all unified as one, living together in harmony. Let the sacred torch of peace illuminate brightly from generation to generation.
I wish everyone health, happiness and auspiciousness! May different cultures and different faiths co-exist in peace and harmony! May the world be blessed with peace, stability and universal harmony! Thank you.