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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 16:39, November 28, 2006
Religion and its role in social harmony
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Social harmony is the intrinsic quality of socialism with Chinese characteristics. It's everyone's responsibility to promote harmony, and a harmonious society is enjoyed by all. Then, can the masses of religious believers be turned into an active force to build a harmonious society, and can religions become a positive factor to spur social harmony? It is essential to give scope to the role of religions in promoting social harmony, as explicitly proposed by "the Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on a number of questions concerning the Construction of a Socialist Harmonious Society".

People's recognition of religion and its social role represents a process of underscoring different focuses with a continuous, in-depth cognition in different historical eras and under varied historical conditions: Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), both founding fathers of the scientific socialism, laid stresses to expose the role of religions used by the exploiting class to enslave the working people and lull their fighting will, to safeguard the system of exploitation. Shortly after the founding of new China in October 1949, the CPC made it clear that "religious believers constitute a force that could be united with", and explicitly incorporated the phrase of "freedom in religious belief" into the Chinese Constitution then and, by the early days of China's reform and opening-up in the late 1970s, CPC affirmed "great progress made in the religious circle," and advocated for unity and cooperation politically and mutual respect in religious belief.

The CPC's relations with the masses of religious believers were clarified as the extreme close one relating to each other as blood and muscle at the National Religious Work Conference in 2001 and, the Sixth Plenary Session of the 16th CPC Central Committee held recently proposed "bringing into play the positive role of the religion in promoting social harmony." This is a scientific thesis and the fundamental principled policy instead of a common slogan or an expediency, and it is also the basis for the theory of knowledge and the foundation for a scientific methodology.

Setting foot on "four comprehensive understandings": That mean the comprehensive understandings of the profound historical, social, cognitional and psychological causes for the birth and existence of religion; an objective reality for the long-term existence of religions in a socialist society; the complexity in which religions are interwoven with factors in politics, economics, culture and ethnicities; and the social phenomena with a relatively big influence on the part of a fairly large group of people.

Making overall plans to "handle five major relationships". It is essential to have a correct understanding and handling of the relationships between political parties, ethnicities, religions and different social strata and between the Chinese nationals at home and overseas in the field of the Chinese political and social life, says President and General Secretary Hu Jintao. Having a correct understanding and handling of the five major relationships and listing of the relationship with religions as one of the five major relations is of vital significance to China's trying effort to unite various social forces to resolve different types of social contradictions and to the country's smooth development at major critical, strategic moments.

Having "the two maximums" in mind. Working more actively and with a greater initiative to look at contradictions squarely and dissolve them promptly; increase harmonious factors to a maximum and reduce inharmonious factors to a minimum to keep prompting social harmony. Since CPC represents the interests of the broad masses of people, it represents the interests of religious believers as well and, since CPC relies on the masses of people, it also relies on religious believers, who also represent the mass basis for CPC in wielding political power as well as a vital force to build socialism with Chinese characteristics and a socialist harmonious society. It constitutes a basic and fundamental task for the Party's religious work to do its mass work well with religious believers as well as the inevitable implementation outcome of the CPC mass work in the religious field.

Setting foot on the "four comprehensive understandings", "making overall plans to handle five major relationships" and having "two maximums" in mind have given rise to a brand-new thesis based on the Marxist outlook concerning the religious issue, namely, giving scope to the positive role of religions in promoting social harmony.

By People's Daily Online; the author, Ye Xiaowen, director general of the State Administration of Religious Affairs under the State Council, or the Chinese central government.

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