International Conference on Religions, Values, Ethics and Development

In a response to the global call for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 (SDGs 2030), the Amity Foundation organized an international conference on the theme “Religions, values, ethics and development”, 12-13 December in Nanjing. The conference, co-hosted with the Institute of World Religions and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), brought together more than 200 participants from various sectors including government, academia, local religious leaders and faith-based NGOs. Apart from China, speakers came from 13 countries in Asia, North America, Europe and Latin America. The conference was held in conjunction with the 2nd Annual Cross Straits Exchange on Christian Philanthropy and the 3rd Annual Training Workshop on Social Service and Development for the 5 major religions in Jiangsu Province.

The two-day conference brought together more than 200 participants from various sectors, countries and religions

In his opening address, Mr. Li Guohua, Vice Director of the Jiangsu United Front Department and Director of the Jiangsu Provincial Religious Affairs Bureau, stressed the importance of international conferences in highlighting sustainable development, best practices and the philosophy behind the idea of sustainability. He recognized the significant contributions made by religions in promoting harmonious development.

Prof. Zhuo Xinping, Director of the Institute of World Religions, CASS, emphasized the importance of religion in attaining “the sustainable development of the Community of Human Destiny” given its spiritual power and close connection to the daily lives of people. Dr. Cornelia Fuellkrug-Weitzel, President of Germany’s largest FBO, Bread for the World, spoke on the theme “Religions, values, ethics and development: perspectives from the German context.” She highlighted the contribution of the churches towards a new concept and guiding values for sustainable development. In his presentation on “Advocacy in Service and Sustainable Development,” Mr. Qiu Zhonghui, Vice-President and General Secretary of Amity Foundation explained Amity’s contributions to sustainable development through its service and advocacy work. Rev. Paul Wei Ti-Hsiang, Head of the delegation from Taiwan, spoke on the positive connections across the straits in religious philanthropy and its importance.

Dr. Cornelia Fuellkrug-Weitzel (left) and Mr. Qiu Zhonghui (right) addressing the audience

Other speakers included Rev. Dr. Dietrich Werner, Theological Advisor to the President of Bread for the World, who pinpointed the profound implications the Reformation heritage has for Christian contributions to social development and diaconia. Dr. Angela Wong Wai Ching, Vice President for Programs, United Board for Christian Higher Education, demonstrated the vital connection between sustainable development and the need to empower more women particularly through education. Focusing on “The business of religion and the ecology of development,” Martin Palmer, General Secretary, Alliance of Religions on Conservation, presented striking information about how religious organizations own 8% of the habitable surface of the planet, run over 50% of all schools worldwide and are the fourth largest investing group in the world. They thus have the wisdom, spirituality and business knowledge to move beyond disaster to a balance of ecology and development.

Rev. Dr. Dietrich Werner (right) and Martin Palmer (left) give balanced viewpoints about the impact of religion on the development of humankind

Several workshops during the conference provided venues for scholars and social practitioners to have lively exchanges on inter-faith initiatives, religion and the role of women, the social impact of religious values, and the relationship between religion and sustainable development.

Panel discussion about religion and sustainable development (left) and interfaith workshop for best social practices (right)

Mr. Wang Shengcai, Director of Policy Study at the State Administration for Religious Affairs, expressed hope that the religious sector would do more for the marginalized, citing some of the SDGs 2030, in particular the goal of zero poverty. In the concluding plenary, Mr. Gu Chuanyong, Inspector of the Jiangsu Provincial Religious Affairs Bureau spoke about “The glorious future of Philanthropy in China” and the need for the state to encourage this through fewer constraints and more support for the various religions to actively participate in philanthropy.

Prof Zhuo Xinping and Dr. Philip Wickeri, Advisor to the Archbishop of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, gave insightful and thought provoking summaries at the end of the conference.

Prof Zhuo Xinping (right) and Dr. Philip Wickeri (left) gave insightful and thought provoking summaries at the end of the conference

A highlight of the conference was the launching of the Chinese version of “Voices from Religions on Sustainable Development” by Ulrich Nitschke, Head of the Secretariat of the “International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development” (PaRD), who did also introduce the PaRD initiative to the audience. On the 13th September, the second day of the conference, which coincided with the date of the Nanjing Massacre, leaders of the five major religions in China offered prayers for peace and a minute of silence was observed to remember the victims.

Five major religions in China offered prayers for peace and a minute of silence was observed to remember the victims of the Nanjing Massacre