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Statement by Ambassador Liu Zhenmin, Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations at High-Level Dialogue on Inter-religious and Inter-cultural Understanding and Cooperation for Peace in the General Assembly
New York, 5 October 2007


Mr. President,

China supports the convening of this high-level dialogue on inter-religious and inter-cultural understanding and cooperation for peace during the current session of the General Assembly initiated by Pakistan and Philippines.

Religious and cultural diversity is a valuable asset of the human society and an important engine for human creativity and progress. The ever deepening globalization has further narrowed the distance among different religions and cultures. In the current world, various religions and cultures are presented with a great opportunity to learn from each other, but are also exposed to possible mutual conflicts at an unprecedented level. The development of human history has shown that difference is the motivation and starting point for dialogue; equality is the pre-requisite and basis for exchanges; and candid and pragmatic dialogue and exchanges help drive our efforts in maintaining peace and promoting development.

The Chinese government has always upheld the concept of "harmonious but different", encouraged "dialogue on the basis of equality", and opposed extremism, imposition of one's own beliefs and values on others as well as discrimination, prejudice and xenophobia based on religious, ethnic and other grounds. In the current international situation, this dialogue in the General Assembly on the theme of "inter-religious and inter-cultural understanding and cooperation" is of important relevance. Promoting dialogue and cooperation among religions and cultures is conducive to enhancing the mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence among peoples of the world and beneficial to the diverse development of our world and the common progress of mankind.

Mr. President,

The evolution and development of the Chinese civilization over the past five thousand years have proven that religion and culture can play a positive role in harmonious development. The openness and inclusiveness of the Chinese culture have enabled various religions and cultures to flourish in China. From the indigenous Taoism to imported Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Catholicism, all major religions of the world are able to peacefully coexist and steadily grow in China. While developing themselves, the five religions have also enriched the Chinese culture. "Harmony is the most precious; love should be universal", these are the traditional concepts of the Chinese culture. China believes that if various religions and cultures keep away from self-righteousness and subjective prejudices and practice mutual tolerance and understanding, it is possible to avoid confrontations and conflicts of religious causes.

The Chinese government respects freedom of religion and pursues the policy of independence in running religious affairs. According to incomplete statistics, there are currently in China more than 100 million religious believers, about 85,000 religious sites, about 300,000 clerics, more than 3,000 religious groups and 74 clerical schools. Our government actively supports the participation of Chinese religious personnel in international cooperation and exchanges as a way to increase mutual understanding and promote common development. In June this year, the Chinese government hosted in Nanjing the third ASEM Interfaith Dialogue. The Nanjing Statement adopted on that occasion made proposals for the promotion of interfaith dialogue. That Statement has been distributed as an official document of the current session of the General Assembly.

Mr. President,

In order to work towards peaceful coexistence of different religions and cultures, the international community should take action in the following three aspects:

Firstly, adopting the approach of "harmonious but different" in addressing international affairs. "Harmonious but different" means being harmonious but not homogeneous, different but not confrontational. This approach will not only help us maintain friendly relations with our neighbors and minimize conflicts, but also facilitate religious and cultural dialogue as part of our common effort to maintain peace and security.

Secondly, strengthening education and public awareness. Respect for different religions and cultures should be incorporated in text books. Cultural exchanges and cooperation in the field of education should be carried out and efforts should be made to advocate religious and cultural equality, tolerance, mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.

Thirdly, giving play to the positive role of the media. Media bears a special responsibility in promoting tolerance, peace, fairness and harmony. We encourage the media to play a positive role in disseminating the value of peace common to all cultures and religions and in promoting harmony, understanding and mutual respect.

Mr. President,

Action is more effective than eloquence. Engaging in inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue and cooperation has become a necessity universally recognized by the international community. We have seen the emergence of various initiatives and mechanisms within the framework of the United Nations. We hope that these initiatives and mechanisms can complement each other and form a synergy so as to make use of the platform representative of all ethnic groups, all cultures and all religions offered by the United Nations to construct a bridge of communication and cooperation with a view to promoting the common development of the human society and building a harmonious world.

Thank you, Mr. President.



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