IPCR Seminar 2021

How to Build a Peace Community?
Northeast Asian Religious Leaders Discuss Online
IPCR Holds Annual Seminar

Religious leaders from Japan, China, and Korea gathered online at an international seminar to discuss ways to build a peaceful community in Northeast Asia on January 27.

The central theme of the seminar was "Challenges for Building a Peace Community in Northeast Asia." The International Project for Religion and Peace in Korea (IPCR) hosted the event, together with the Korean Conference of Religions for Peace (KCRP) and WCRP/RfP Japan.

The annual seminar has been held since 2009 to discuss issues that Northeast Asian countries are facing. Due to the pandemic, the organizers conducted the meeting online with a limited number of around 80 people.

At the opening ceremony, The Most Rev. N. Makoto Uematsu, President of WCRP/RfP Japan (Bishop of The Nippon Sei Ko Kai, the Anglican Church of Japan), noted that the number of people infected with the noble coronavirus had exceeded 100 million worldwide. He said that it is precisely at times like this that "the role of religious leaders is seriously tested." Rev. Uematsu expressed hope for the cooperation of the religious leaders of the three countries through the dialogue at the seminar.

The seminar continued with three sessions.

Session 1, on the theme of "Dialogue Across Religions and Cultures: Building an Asian Community of Civilization," featured a speech by Prof. Zhou Yongsheng, member of CCRP and Professor at the International Relations Institute of Foreign Affairs University of China.

"Each religion has its ideas, values, and tradition," Prof . Zhou said. "Asia is a region where multiple civilizations and religions coexist. Different civilizations and religions shall accept and enlighten each other to prosper together." He argued that each religion needs to overcome exclusivity, resolve conflicts, and accept each other. "By practicing that, we can build an Asian Community of Civilization to maintain lasting peace and share prosperity." Prof . Zhou said.

Prof . Zhou defines the Asian Community of Civilization as a "platform for people from Asian countries to interact and develop a multilateral culture" based on the four principles of "equality, consultation, joint construction, and sharing."

"It is not easy to build because of the multiplicity and complexity of Asia," he said and proposed the following strategy. "First, set short-term and medium-term goals to promote the East Asian civilization community. And gradually disseminate the results obtained throughout Asia. And finally, achieve the long-term goal of building an Asian Community of Civilization."

Rev. Toshimasa Yamamoto, a board member of the WCRP/RfP Japan, pointed out that historical reflection on the exclusiveness of religions is essential for building an Asian Community of Civilization. Looking back at the history of Christianity, he stressed that religions always need to be careful not to be used by the governments. Rev. Yamamoto emphasized the need to have the courage to oppose war and violence following religions' inherent teachings and values of peace when the states go into war. He also stated that interfaith dialogue and understanding of other faiths are essential to prevent conflicts, as the number of religious conflicts increases as globalization accelerates.

In Session 2, on the theme of "The Two Faces of Religion in the Age of Pandemics," Dr. Jung Kyoungil, Director of the Saegil Christian Institute for Society and Culture in Korea, made a speech.

Dr. Jung explained that the two cases of cluster infections of Protestant groups in South Korea had made Protestants extremely unpopular in Korean society. Even to the other religions other than the Protestants, "Koreans do not have any certain expectations or reliance on religion. They do not appreciate or trust. Citizens appreciate and trust medical workers, care workers, and essential workers. Probably this pandemic era will be remembered as an era of the lowest social expectations to religions," he said.

Dr. Jung said that the role religion could play in a pandemic crisis like COVID would be to provide "psychological epidemic preventions to those suffering from the disaster." "If we can utilize spiritual practices such as Buddhist mindfulness, Christian contemplation, or intercessory prayer, religions can provide with a psychological and spiritual vaccine," he said. "It was a simple and obvious fact that religions that don't love (people) aren't loved," Dr. Jung spoke of the lesson he learned over the past year. "Love the most vulnerable. To love them is precisely how religions can survive and be loved after a disaster. "

In the panel discussion following the speeches, Dr . Akira Kaneko, a member of the Peace Research Institute of WCRP/RfP Japan, and the Professor at the Oyasato Institute for the Study of Religion at Tenri University referred to the original role of religion. He said that the psychological care, spiritual support, and care of the soul that enables human beings to live as human beings is the fundamental work that only religious people can do. Dr . Kaneko said that religious people could become "psychological and spiritual vaccines" in the Corona era.

In Session 3, Ven. Ryumyo Yamazaki, Director of the Peace Research Institute of WCRP/RfP Japan and Professor Emeritus at Musashino University, gave a speech on the theme of "Human Beings and Religious Leaders in the Wake of the New Coronavirus." He pointed out that as the virus spreads, there is a struggle to prioritize "economic activities" or "life" around the world. While it is essential to support economic activities, he stressed the importance of political decision-making to protect lives as the number of suicides related to Corona has increased.

Referring to the teachings of the "Four Noble Truths and the Eight Noble Paths" of Buddhism as an example, Ven. Yamazaki expressed his desire to gain insight into the virus, coexist with it as an unavoidable reality, walk the path to overcoming it, and sustain the practice of faith as a religious leader. Stressing the true meaning of religion as the salvation of people, he showed examples of the efforts by religious leaders to support the needy and people with family problems.

Dr. Kathy Matsui, a member of the Peace Research Institute of WCRP/RfP Japan, and a professor at Seisen University, who spoke as one of the panelists, pointed out that past efforts to deal with the noble coronavirus had been anything but a patchwork. She pointed out that the problem is more profound than meets the eye. We need to think about and implement cooperative solutions that can be sustained over time and are full of tolerance, love, and compassion, rather than simplistic two-way solutions.

Other panelists included
Ven. Puzheng (Deputy Secretaries-General, CCRP/ Deputy Secretaries-General, Buddhist Association of China
Dr. Yang Huiying (Member, CCRP/ Associate Professor, China Islamic Institute)
Ms. Jie Zhu, CCRP member and Secretary-General of the Beijing Diocese of the Catholic Church in China
from China, and
Ven. Junggak (Chair, Interfaith Dialogue Committee of KCRP/Professor, Joong-Ang Sangha University)
Dr. Park Changhyon (Associate Professor, Methodist Theological University)
Sr. Lee Hyunsook (Sister, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary
from South Korea).