JINING, Shandong - A statue highlighting an upcoming dialogue between the world's two predominant civilizations, Confucianism and Christianity, is to be erected in the birthplace of China's great philosopher, Confucius, as a monument to the Chinese people's growing initiatives in the new century to engage with overseas civilizations.
Zhang Xiao'an, vice-president of the United Nations Association of China, called the monument "a new landmark" in the Nishan Mountain, the Confucian holy land boasting ancient cultural heritage sites under state protection such as the Confucius Temple and Nishan Academy. He made the comments while speaking at a press conference here on Saturday.
Some 35 kilometers to the southeast of Qufu in East China's Shandong province, the mountain will be the venue for the opening ceremony of the first Nishan Forum on World Civilization on Monday morning.
Zhang said that domestic and overseas scholars would draw upon the wisdom of ancient sages Confucius and Jesus, who lived more than 2,000 years ago, to broaden the possibilities for peaceful solutions of daily living issues while the forum will climax with the issue of the Nishan Declaration of Harmony.
"The declaration will be the first of its kind on human harmony in the world and a significant achievement of the first Nishan forum," said the executive director of the Presidium of the Forum's Organization Committee.
According to Zhang, the monument, about 9.6 meters long and 1.5 meters high, will be unveiled Monday morning in the square at the Shengyuan Academy of Nishan, where Robert Schuller, the Crystal Cathedral's founding pastor from California, USA, will open the forum's first dialogue with Chinese scholars to discuss human crisis and dialogue between civilizations.
On Wednesday, more than 170 people, including former national leaders of Indonesia and Hungary, local Confucian scholars, Buddhists, Taoists as well as more than 30 foreign scholars and Christian personalities from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Thailand, will exchange thoughts during 14 topical seminars to explore the way toward a harmonious world with diversified cultures.
With its preparation work started almost three years ago, the forum crystallized the initiatives of the Chinese people to facilitate the communications between civilizations at a significant historical period, Zhang said.
To call on the world to quicken the rapprochement of cultures, secretary-general of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon warned in a message to the world earlier this year that the globe was beset by prejudice, hatred and unresolved challenges.
"Often, extremists demonize other cultures and traditions, and target them for violence. And at this time of economic turmoil, when there are fewer jobs to go around, people often blame minorities," said Ban Ki-moon.
Zhang said that the forum was "a solemn commitment of China in fulfilling the UN's initiative to facilitate dialogues among civilizations".
"In this academic, non-governmental, open and international event, participants are welcome to share their disparities and utter different voices," said Zhang.
In one seminar, for instance, participants are expected to explore alternative solutions under the influence of Confucianism-Christianity dialogues.
According to the schedule, participants are also encouraged to examine the moral deficiency, excessive material desires and other pernicious habits in the two civilized cultures which run counter to ancient sages' doctrines and brainstorm on how to enhance human flourishing for the world's six billion population in peace and harmony.
Dwight N. Hopkins, professor of theology at the University of Chicago, passionately examined the common points between Confucianism and Christian civilizations in his thesis.
"To understand the tradition of the West, one must engage Christianity. Likewise, to appreciate the rich heritage of China, one is obligated to take seriously the way of life of Confucianism...At the dawn of the 21st century, we have ample ethical and cultural resources from the East and the West to forge together a more peaceful, prosperous, and harmonious world," he wrote.