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Religions and Tolerance On 8 and 9 May 2000, the symposium ‘Religions and Tolerance’ was held in Potsdam and Berlin. It was convened in the frame work o f the Year o f Japan in Germany by the Japanese-German Centre Berlin in co-operation with the Centre o f the Modern Orient, the Moses Mendelssohn Centre Potsdam, the Urasenke Foundation, and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. All the speakers were specially invited. By MARTI N RAMSTEDT n recent years, the Japanese-German Cen tre Berlin QGCB), has established itself as a major promoter of a more profound intercultural di alogue which transcends the bound aries of straightforward JapaneseGerman dialogue. The symposium ‘Religions and Tolerance was con vened in order to discuss from an emic point of view the potentials for and limits to tolerance in each world religion as well as in Shintoism, which served as a representative of ‘animisf religions. The papers were presented in Ger man, Japanese, or English and were simultaneously translated into all the three languages. The symposium was opened in the state chancellery of Potsdam by the Leader of the Fed eral German State of Brandenburg, Dr Manfred Stolpe, and the Japanese Ambassador, Kume Kunisada. Dr Stolpe recalled the spirit of tolerance which crystallized in the history of Prussia during the reign of Friedrich-Wilhelm I (1640-1688) and Friedrich II (1740-1786). FriedrichWilhem I invited the French Hu guenots who were being persecuted in their home country to settle down in his realm, thereby allowing the country to profit greatly profiting from their skills. Pointing out the economic gain resulting from the Great Elector’s tolerant act, Stolpe may have been alluding to the cur rent plans for the introduction of a German ‘green card’, e.g. for Indian computer specialists, which has reignited xenophobia in Germany. Friedrich II instituted freedom of conscience, mediated between the various Christian churches in the in terests of the state, and even allowed more scope to the large Roman Catholic minority. His royal toler ance, however, did not include the Jews. The definition of tolerance of fered by Ambassador Kume met with general enthusiasm: in Japan, he said, tolerance is understood to be a combination of openness and gen erosity. The programme in Potsdam was concluded by the demonstration of a Japanese tea ceremony led by Dr Sen Soshitsu XV, the Grand Master of the Urasenke Chado tradition, offer ing the four virtues Wa (harmony), Kei (respect), Set (purity), and Jaku (quietude) as universal principles for inter-personal, inter-cultural, and inter-religious communication. Dr Sen had been a kamikaze-pilot during World War II, whose life had been spared by the ‘timely’ Japanese capit ulation. The moral value of the virtues of his chado school notwith
standing, it was a pity that Dr Sen could only find words of sorrow for his dead comrades and not for the victims of the intolerance of the for mer Japanese regime. The paper sessions, hosted by the JGCB in Berlin, were opened by the General Secretary, Volker Klein, a lawyer. He pointed out the limits of tolerance in the German Constitu tion which grants every citizen ab solute freedom of conscience and be lief, but restricts the freedom to ex press an opinion when this might vi olate the principles of democracy. The subsequent speaker, the former Japanese ambassador, Cato Tisati, expressed his sorrow regarding the inhumanity of World War II as well as the recent atrocities in Southeast Europe caused by national chauvin ism. In order to overcome the in creasing threat to world peace caused by the growing distance be tween the different cultures, he sug gested looking for a common ground where each culture can retain its identity while respecting that of the Other. This symposium would be a valuable opportunity to assess how the exploration of avenues of toler ance within each religious tradition can help to reach this goal. This cau tious expression of hope was under scored by Prof. Wolf Lepenies, the di rector of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, who warned against leaving out the important zones of conflict between the various traditions.
Shared ideas The first session was devoted to re flection on avenues of tolerance within Christianity. Prof. Wolfgang Huber, Bishop of the Lutheran Church of Berlin-Brandenburg, began with the observation that the need for tolerance is born from intol erance. He then turned to the pre sent rise in Hindu fundamentalism in contemporary India which endan gers the co-existence of Hinduism and Islam and restrains the develop ment of local Christianity. Within the history of Christianity itself, he said, concepts of tolerance only de veloped after the emergence of Protestant sects. This view was con tested by the Lutheran theologian Prof Christoph Markschies (Univer sity of Jena) who indicated earlier concepts of tolerance which had evolved out of medieval scholasti cism. Most valuable of these was Huber’s distinction between active and passive tolerance. The first would entail acknowledgement of the dignity of every human being in stead of the mere sufferance of other people. The second session explored in stances of tolerance within Islam. The
speaker, Prof. Muhammad Khalid Masud, a Muslim scholar from Pak istan who is currently Academic Di rector of the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World in Leiden, the Netherlands, in troduced himself as a believing Mus lim who considers the Koran to be a historical rather than a normative text. Having attributed dogmatic ab solutism to sectarian developments within Islam, he emphasized the fact that Muslims have displayed intoler ant or violent behaviour towards ad herents of deviant beliefs in situa tions in which they have had to struggle for political or economic power. He then introduced the audi ence to a wide range of contemporary Muslim intellectuals who have ar gued in favour of political pluralism on the basis of religious pluralism. Masud himself recommended that shared ideas among religions can be stressed in order to overcome the vio lence between religions. When deli cately defining the limits of tolerance in the contemporary Muslim world, Prof. Gudrun Kramer (Free Universi ty Berlin) was careful to emphasize the fact that during its history Islam has exhibited a much higher rate of tolerance than Christianity. The first day of the symposium concluded with words of apprecia tion and encouragement by Ger many’s former president, Dr Richard von Weizsacker, who is renowned for his promotion of inter-cultural dia logue, ethical awareness, and toler ance.
theologian who has renounced the claim of Christianity to absolute truth and who has also practised Buddhist meditation, introduced his syncretistic approach which he has derived from what he calls the inter face or intersection between Bud dhism and Christianity. He claims that the intersection between Chris tianity and Buddhism lies in what Buddhists call ‘realized Buddha-nature’ and Christians ‘Christ who lives in me’. Yagi defined both expe riences as being essentially one. His own term for them was ‘Self-ego’ which he equated with both Master Ryomin Akizuki’s term ‘individuum qua transindividuum’ and Master Eckhart’s concept o f‘the unity between God and man in action (and not in essence)’ (Wirkenseinheit). Prof Ueda Shizuteru (University of Kyoto), the representative of Bud dhism, was much more cautious in his own approach. Stating that Christianity focuses upon the per sonality of Christ as the link to tran scendentalism, whereas Buddhism concentrates on the all-encompass ing, open space. Ueda then suggest ed defining common tasks to be used as stepping-stones for bridging the differences between Buddhism and Christianity. An intermediate position was taken by the Lutheran theologian Prof Theo Sundermeier (University of Heidelberg) who has contributed to the field of intercultural hermeneutics. Starting out with an assessment of the potential for dia logue in the different schools of Bud dhism, he criticized Hinayana Bud dhists for only discussing the issue of religion (i.e. the traditional ortho of religious truth with those nonpraxies) in private life, while the im Buddhists who are dissatisfied with portance of religion (i.e. ‘thin Hin their own religion. They would duism’) in public life is increasing. never question their own religious Prof. Kaviraj’s explanation was com tenets nor would they formulate petently complemented by Prof Em. Heinrich von Stietencron (Institute of them in such a way that a common Indology and Comparative Studies of ground could be established be tween themselves and Christians. Religion, Tübingen). Forgetting to mention the aggres The fifth session was dedicated to sive Christian attempts to convert Shintoism which was represented by Hinayana Buddhists, for instance, in two Shinto priests: Prof. Sonoda Mi Sri Lanka in colonial times, he then noru (Kyoto University), priest of the lauded the relatively open attitude Chichibu Shrine, and Katayama Fuof many Mahayana Buddhists. He mihiko MD (Medical University did find fault with what he called Tokyo), priest of the Shinjuku Shrine. their inclusive approach towards In pre-Meji Japan, they stated, indige other religions, the soteriological nous Shintoism and the foreign reli value of which would be acknowl gion of Buddhism co-existed in a kind edged only on the basis of parallels of ritual and spiritual symbiosis. This between them and Mahayana Bud was possible, they argued, because dhism. Sundermeier himself has Mahayana-Buddhism actively pro studied Buddhist meditation which motes syncretism. The crunch came with the Meji restoration in 1868 he recommends as a means to deep en one’s own faith. which dissolved the symbiosis of Bud Prof. Zwi Werblowsky (Hebrew dhism and Shintoism and the powUniversity, Jerusalem) a renowned ers-that-be turned the latter into a scholar of comparative religion, was national cult. After World War II, given the difficult task of drawing Shintoism was finally freed from state the strands together to conclude the control. Since then, Buddhism and symposium. In view of the persistent Shintoism have partly re-established instances of intolerance, especially their former relationship. Today, ap among adherents of the monotheis proximately sixty per cent of the tic religions, in Israel as well, and the Japanese population participates in enormous difficulties to be faced in the rites at the Shinto shrines of their reconciling monotheism with other local guardian deities, while relying forms of spirituality, let alone athe on the Buddhist temples for the fu ism, he proceeded to rehabilitate neral arrangements for their de ‘passive tolerance’, i.e. the mere suf ceased. ferance of difference, as a more real istic goal on the path towards Passive tolerance achieving tolerance. ■ The last session explored three dif ferent modes of active tolerance in Dr M artin R am stedt is an ESF / Alliance the dialogue between Buddhism and fellow and is stationed at the HAS in Leiden. Christianity. Prof. Yagi Seiichi (Toin E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org University,Yokohama), a Christian
strong sense for the necessity of at least a minimum of solidarity among both religious and atheist Jews. The task of assessing Hinduism was assigned to Prof Sudipta Kaviraj (School for Oriental and African Stud ies, London), a political scientist. Looking at the rise of Hindu funda mentalism, he stated that Hindu re form movements like the Brahmo Samaj and its like were instrumental in homogenizing the plethora of caste and tribe specific orthopraxies of India. In doing so they prepared the way for the evolution of a kind of ‘thin religion’ which could then be used by Hindu fundamentalists as a ‘national’ ideology that supposedly transcends caste and ethnic bound aries. Therefore we have the seeming paradox that there is now a depletion
‘ThinHinduism’ The second day of the symposium commenced with the session on Ju daism. Prof. Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich, the Honorary Vice-President of B’nai B’rith in Europe (Switzerland), re minded the audience that Jews have not had much chance to behave intol erantly towards people of other con victions because, until recently, they did not have their own state and hence not enough political power to pursue such behaviour effectively. Side-stepping problems of tolerance in contemporary Israel, Ehrlich said that the issue of tolerance has gener ally presented itself to Jews in such a way that it is they who have been in need of it. The lower echelons of the Lutheran Church, for instance, still continue their discriminatory rhe toric against Judaism in spite of the new rhetoric of tolerance promoted by their superiors. When contemplat ing the possibilities for tolerance within the doctrine of Judaism, Ehrlich concluded that the concept of monotheism would clearly set a limit. This would, of course, also apply to the other two monotheistic religions, Islam and Christianity. When Prof Masud asked how religious Jews deal with the problem of atheism, Prof. Ehrlich replied that because of the common stigmatization of Jewish people by their environment, even atheist Jews could not escape their Jewish identity. Hence, there is a
... shared ideas among
religions can be stressed in order to overcome
the violence between religions.
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