1. The significance of peace and harmony
Unprecedentedly rapid, surging globalization has closely united all countries in the world into a community of shared destiny. Thus a human society in its real sense is taking shape gradually. In the meantime, the significance of peace and harmony is being recognized by more and more people of vision for the following reasons.
Peace and harmony are a basic premise. They can bring about a peaceful and stable social order and are necessary conditions to the survival and development of humankind. A world bereft of peace and harmony certainly will fall into disintegration and return to the era when the law of the jungle prevailed.
Peace and harmony are a fundamental interest. They are owned and shared by all humankind. On this basis, the creative potential of the individuals can be brought into full play, the economy and culture of a nation will see sustainable development, and the long-lasting prosperity of human societies will be substantially guaranteed.
Peace and harmony are an ideal path. They signify the handling of disputes and resolving of conflicts in a fair and appropriate manner by applying the principle of Equilibrium and Harmonyas well as the Middle Way, thus improving the welfare of each individual as well as the wellbeing of humankind as a whole.
Peace and harmony are a long-lasting value. Most of the numerous cultural achievements attained since the emergence of human civilization had only lasted briefly and fallen into oblivion in history due to being either one-sided or confined to its time. Of all the ideologies that have passed down to the present and continue to have important impact, peace and harmony occupy the most dominant position.
Peace and harmony are a profound wisdom. It is the height of wisdom that determines the breadth of vision, the depth of exploration, the extent of progress, and the limit of transcendence. All major religions and cultural traditions in the world today invariably love peace and pursue harmony. History proves that all thoughts contrary to peace and harmony eventually lose popular support and perish due to the lack of these virtues.
2. The content of peace and harmony
Peace and harmony of humankind should be integral and comprehensive. They consist of the following six aspects.
The first is an international political order fully embodying equality and mutual trust. The world security and justice are thus maintained through political cooperation.
The second is a global economic system fully embodying balance and mutual benefit. The gap between the rich and the poor as well as regional imbalances are thus extensively eliminated through economic development.
The third is a global cultural atmosphere fully embodying diversity and integration. Friendship is thus consolidated and enhanced while historical prejudices dissolve through dialogues and exchanges.
The fourth is a natural ecological ethic fully embodying intergrowth and co-prosperity. The responsibility of environmental management is thus actively fulfilled, and environmental crises are thereby relieved through ecological protection.
The fifth is the scientific and technological progress fully embodying human nature and the principle of people first. The scientific and technological results are thus promoted to ultimately serve the long-term happiness of mankind.
The sixth is the mental and spiritual state fully embodying the healthy morality. Peace, harmony and happiness of every individual are thus acquired both physically and spiritually by applying traditional wisdoms.
In the areas mentioned above, cultural peace and harmony are a fundamental foundation. Ultimately, culture is a value system and the collection of its correspondent codes of conduct. There is no normal activity of a human society that is not the actual manifestation of its value. A culture with peace and harmony as its mainstream value certainly implements peace and harmony in all the areas of social life. Historical experience has shown that a society can obtain continuous and steady development only when it truly loves peace and places importance upon harmony.
Ever since the beginning of the 21st century, cultural issues have aroused worldwide concern. People of deep insight have become increasingly aware that without global cultural harmony, mutual political trust and economic benefit of all parties concerned would merely be rhetorical and unsubstantial, and it is getting even harder to conduct effective international cooperation when confronted with multifaceted global challenges. Therefore, the profound harmony of global cultures is the top priority of human society. I would hence like to put forward three suggestions:
3.1. The integral combination of overall plurality and localized plurality
Under the current circumstances of increasingly frequent exchanges and interactions, “plurality” is not only a description of the world’s overall situation but a reflection of the realities in most countries. It is conceivable that cultural plurality of the world in the future as a whole retains its roots in the cultural plurality of each region. In some places, people pursue unitary dominance with a one-sided approach and fail to achieve plural coexistence, so a great number of confrontations and social conflicts among ethnic groups have erupted, which not only affects their own stability, but also produces elements of instability in neighboring regions. If the ethical requirements of a particular cultural tradition are taken arbitrarily to judge the normal ways of life of other cultural traditions, some conducts irrelevant to morality will also be colored as right or wrong, virtuous or evil, which will certainly result in incorrect value judgments, and even directly cause emotional overreactions. Therefore, every cultural tradition must promote the spirit of tolerance and reconciliation in order to dissolve excessive tensions within society by mutual sincerity. If plural coexistence can be realized everywhere, then peace and harmony throughout the whole world will be accomplished.
3.2. The integral combination of ideological consensus and diverse modes
Concerning the ideas of value, we should help promote major cultural traditions to reach certain universal consensus under the premise of mutual respect. Although various cultural traditions have been nurtured and molded in different living environments, they still share many common ideas based on universal values. We need to, through adequate exchanges, condense these common ideas into a consensus of universal significance and make them the common spiritual wealth for all human beings.
Concerning the modes of practice, we should encourage all cultural traditions, in light of their own needs and circumstances, to adopt diverse and localized methods of practice in respect of general consensus. Cultural traditions, without exception, have been shaped through long-term exploration and endeavors so as to adapt themselves to the living environments. It, therefore, is a unique manifestation of the shared ideas of humankind. Thus, there does not exist an optimal cultural mode that can fit all situations. As a matter of fact, the more universal an idea is, the more necessary it is to select a proper mode of practice in line with the specific time and space.
3.3. The integral combination of absorbing and contributing value
Absorbing value means to comprehensively examine the fabric of other cultures and take them as points of references, turning the advantages into assets beneficial to perfecting one’s own culture. It is the prominent complementarity among different cultures that makes the exchanges and dialogues among them an absolute necessity. In such a process, each culture should set out from its current status to broaden its vision, enrich its content and elevate its own profiles by comprehending and learning the excellent achievements of other cultures.
Contributing value means to make an in-depth summary of the positive values of its own culture in relation to others, offering them appropriate constructive suggestions. The more positive values one culture contributes to other cultures, the more respect and recognition it can gain from them, and the more contributions it can make to the culture of mankind as a whole. The underlying driving force of the elevation and progress of human culture comes exactly from the convergence and consolidation of the positive values of all cultures.
4. The prospect of peace and harmony
Peace and harmony of all humanity mean peace and harmony among all nations, ethnic groups and religions. Meanwhile, it is the peace and harmony of each nation, ethnic group and religion that constitute the peace and harmony of all humanity. The Culture of Harmony, an excellent tradition of the Chinese civilization, which has lasted for thousands of years, has made tremendous contributions to the promotion of harmonious coexistence of various ethnic groups and the convergence and integration of religious cultures. It is immeasurably inspirational to the peace and harmony of mankind today.
Religious cultures are the concentrated expression of the crystallized wisdom of human culture, and all major religions regard grand selfless love of all humankind as their fundamental tenet. Promoting the peace and harmony of the entire mankind is the noble mission and great cause shared by all religions. May the leaders of all religious communities make concerted efforts to transcend the limits of religions and religious denominations, jointly fulfilling the moral obligations of care and concern for the world and mankind. May the leaders of all religions, with the religious peace and harmony, guide and propel the entire humankind towards a supremely perfect state of peace and harmony.
Speech of Ven. Xuecheng at the Forth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions on May 30, 2012.