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China all set to host Buddhist forum

China is all set to host its first major international forum on Buddhism, to complement President Hu Jintao's campaign to build a "harmonious society."

india Updated: Mar 17, 2006 12:03 IST
Reuters
Reuters
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China is all set to host its first major international forum on Buddhism, to complement President Hu Jintao's campaign to build a "harmonious society" and burnish China's tarnished image on religious freedom.

Some 1,000 monks and experts on Buddhism from about 10 countries and China, Hong Kong and Taiwan will descend on the scenic city of Hangzhou in the eastern province of Zhejiang for the World Buddhist Forum opening on April 13.

"Religion will play a big role in China's creation of a harmonious society," Xiao Wunan, vice-chairman of the World Buddhist Peace Foundation, said when asked if the forum indicated a greater official tolerance for religion.

A theme of the forum printed on brochures reads: "A harmonious world begins in the mind."

Hu has launched a campaign to build a "harmonious society" since the Chinese society has become more diverse but also more unequal.

The government continues strict curbs on religious practice, but has also sought to fend off international criticism by underscoring the country's diversity of beliefs.

Many Catholics worship in underground churches and Protestant preachers have been detained for peddling unauthorised versions of the Bible.

The government is generally less fearful of Buddhism with its home-grown roots, but maintains tight control on monasteries, especially in Tibet where nuns and priests have been jailed for expressing sympathy with the exiled Dalai Lama.

It was unclear whether Hu or the Communist Party's 24-member decision-making Politburo had given their blessings to the forum, organised by China's Buddhist Association and the China Association for Religious and Cultural Exchanges.

"Government support for such a big event is very important," Xiao, a 41-year old convert to Tibetan Buddhism, said in an interview.

He did not elaborate or confirm whether any member of the Politburo would attend.

First Published: Mar 17, 2006 12:03 IST