The Chinese regime continues to keep all religious activity in the country under close observation and control, but recently government officials met with Russian Orthodox clergy to discuss cooperation
A round table discussion among representatives of traditional religions of Russia and China was held May 14 in Beijing within the context of the 4th meeting of the Russian-Chinese working group for contacts and cooperation in the religious sphere, under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, and Mr. Cheng Zourong, deputy director of the People’s Republic of China State Administration for Relations Affairs.
The participants exchanged opinions on the religious factor in modern society. They agreed on the inadmissibility of using religion-specific words for justifying extremism and separatism, and noted the importance of consolidating traditional religions of Russia and China to uphold fundamental moral values and religious culture in the face of the challenges of the rapidly secularizing modern world. Also underscored was the contribution religious communities of Russia and China made in the war against German fascism and Japanese militarism.
The Chinese and Russian participants spoke at length about the importance of contacts in the religious sphere for consolidating relations between Russia and China, and for friendship between the people of the two countries, which was mentioned by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China at their meeting in Moscow on May 8, 2015.
Metropolitan Hilarion underscored in his report that problems pertaining to religion must be treated delicately, and suggested reflection on the basic challenges which the followers of different religions are facing. He noted the active imposition of a secular model of behavior upon modern society as the notion of “sin” is being withdrawn from public life, saying, “A false interpretation of human rights has brought about an unhealthy amount of attention to the rights of same-sex couples. However, not so many people see the fact of brutal violations of fundamental human rights, such as the right to life and freedom of religion. We should make the traditional religious values of our nations the basis for opposing these tendencies.”
Metropolitan Hilarion told the participants about the centuries-long experience of equal and peaceful coexistence of different religions in Russia and added, “Christians, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists live as good neighbors and actively participate in the life of society.” He believes that conducive to it are dialogue among traditional religions in the Interreligious Council of Russia and a partnering relationship between religions and the State, especially in the format of the Russian Presidential Council for Cooperation with Religious Organizations.
The DECR chairman also touched upon the tragic situation of Christians in certain countries of the Middle East, saying, “We support the call of Christian leaders in the region to help Christians feel like citizens with full rights rather than like a ‘religious minority’ in their countries, and to provide conditions for their staying in their homes without any fear for their lives.”
Metropolitan Hilarion gave a positive example of the involvement of the State in the curbing of extremism in Egypt, where the situation has improved thanks to the efforts of the new authority headed by President El-Sisi.
Metropolitan Hilarion told the participants that the Russian Orthodox Church sets peacemaking and protection of the rights of Christians as her primary goal, and takes an active part in international forums and cooperates with political, public, scientific and other organizations.
After the meeting, Mr. Cheng Zourong gave a reception in honor of Metropolitan Hilarion and the Russian delegation.
The guests from Russia visited the ancient mosque in Beijing. The leaders of the Islamic Association of China told them about the present situation of Muslims in the country.
That same day, Russian Ambassador to China Andrei Denisov met with the delegation, and they laid flowers at the memorial cross set up in the territory of the Embassy to commemorate compatriots who had died in China. Metropolitan Hilarion and members of the delegation sang “Memory Eternal.”