Religious Tolerance in China
Editor's note: The writer is Founder of Friends of BRI Forum. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.
Recently China hosted renowned and respected Islamic scholars to visit Xinjiang and witness the tremendous religious freedom Muslims enjoy in China. The delegation visited various sites and met communities to understand China’s policies and plans to make the country inclusive and prosperous. China has a long history of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence and is a multi-ethnic society that has remained an essential dimension of the Chinese state structures.
To make China an inclusive and peaceful country, the Communist Party of China has made a substantial contribution towards promoting understanding between different religious groups. China has a long history of religious freedom, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence that not only enjoyed by Muslims but other religious and ethnic diverse groups.
Religious freedom, inclusion, and multilateralism are the hallmark of the Chinese society, which is also embedded in the state structure and have remained important bedrock for its prosperous and conflict-free society. Throughout its 5000-year history, the Chinese civilization has undergone a process of continual growth and development.
From the introduction of Buddhism and the emergence of Islam in ancient times to the "learning from the West" movement of the 19th century and the introduction of Marxism and socialist thought in the 20th century, and the all-round opening up after 1978, China has never experienced a single conflict between religions or a clash of civilizations.
Instead, a pattern of harmonious coexistence among the five major religions (Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism), as well as folk beliefs and original ethnic faiths, have been established and continued to this day. This time-tested experience of multiple religions coexisting in harmony in China holds valuable lessons for the world.
In China, there is a diverse religious population, with 23 million Muslims, over 20.3 million Protestants, and 5 million Catholics. Additionally, there are a high number of religious sites and religious workers in the country. Chinese religious communities have also established links with partners in nearly 80 countries and regions worldwide.
The concept of embracing and respecting multiple religions and beliefs has been a fundamental aspect of Chinese culture since ancient times. Confucius, one of the most influential philosophers in Chinese history, believed that traditional religious practices were crucial in promoting social enlightenment.
Since the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, religious freedom and tolerance have remained a fundamental part of the country’s governance. These rights to practice religious beliefs are supported and protected by law. The constitution clearly states that "citizens of the People's Republic of China have the freedom of religious belief" and that the government shall manage religious affairs related to the interests of the state and the public interest of society in accordance with the law. Additionally, the government ensures that religious organizations and religious affairs are not interfered with by foreign forces. This approach upholds the right to freedom of religious belief while ensuring that the state and society's interests are protected.
It is also important to note here that a large number of Muslim population on BRI participants make a large representation of the Muslim population across continents, associating their respective political goals with China. It reflects the trust and comfort of the Muslim community in Chinese cultural norms of inclusion and multilateralism.
It is also pertinent to acknowledge that the world is currently undergoing significant changes unlike any seen in recent history. In light of this, Chinese President Xi Jinping has proposed building a community with a shared future for mankind.
The concept of a shared future for humanity stresses the value of honoring the variety of cultures around the world and encourages overcoming division through interactions between civilizations. It also promotes ending conflicts through mutual understanding and rejecting the notion that one civilization is superior to others, instead promoting coexistence. China also holds this principle in high regard, promoting tolerance and coexistence in its own society.