Forum focuses on global harmony
"True peace" depends on building "true harmony among all human beings," United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared Monday in a message to the 2004 Beijing Forum.
The theme of the first session of the forum, being hosted by Peking University, is the "harmony and prosperity of civilizations."
"More and more people recognize that we share one planet, and that we can not build true peace without building true harmony among all human beings," Annan's message says.
"Your theme goes to the heart of the mission of the United Nations, which was created in the belief that dialogue can triumph over discord, the diversity is a universal virtue..." said Annan.
The idea that there is one people in possession of the truth, one answer to the world's ills, or one solution to humanity's needs, has done untold harm throughout history, he noted.
That idea continues to endanger us today, Annan warned in the message.
"Each one of us can take pride in our heritage and culture, while understanding and welcoming the fact that others do too," he appealed.
Annan was echoed by China's former Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, who said that history has proved that one country will not be successful by depending on military power rather than peaceful co-existence.
And only harmony and understanding between various cultures can guarantee human progress, Qian said at the opening ceremony of the forum.
As a country whose goal is world peace and development, China's rich culture makes a great contribution to its foreign policy, Qian noted.
The forum will focus on promoting the study of the humanities and the social sciences in the Asia-Pacific region and the world, said Min Weifang, director of educational affairs at Peking University.
The forum provides a good platform for cultural research and exchange among experts from around the world, especially those from the Asia-Pacific region, said Princess Silingtong from Thailand.
"I like Chinese poems and essays from the Tang (AD618-907) and the Song (960-1279) dynasties, and there is real academic atmosphere in China," said Silingtong, who has made a great contribution to Sino-Thai cultural exchanges in recent years.
There are real differences and diversity, and even some conflicts, between different civilizations, so it is impossible for one civilization to totally control the world, said Tang Yijie, a famous philosopher from Peking University.
"So we must seek the valuable cultural resources from different countries to resolve conflicts between various civilizations and realize their harmony," Tang said.
To strengthen the dialogue between various civilizations is an effective way to reduce conflicts among nationalities, and the forum will help establish a wider network for scholars to exchange their points, said Zhang Xinsheng, vice-education minister of China.
More than 400 domestic and overseas experts will gather in Beijing International Conference Centre to discuss the importance of building harmony among civilizations over the next three days.
A total of 14 panel sessions will be held to discuss archaeology, art, economics, and philosophy.
And the forum is expected to become another world-level forum like the Bo'ao Forum in Hainan Province, a major political event.