(Vatican Radio) What is the future of interfaith dialogue in Asia today? What have been the most successful models for the inculturation of Christianity into Chinese society? What are the new frontiers for interreligious and ecumenical encounter in this rapidly-developing region?
Those are some of the questions on the agenda at a conference in Hong Kong organised by the Ecclesiological Investigations International Research Network, entitled ‘Christianity and Religions in China: past, present and future’.
Philippa Hitchen is in Hong Kong and reports on the setting for the third day of the conference, hosted by the Centre for Catholic Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong…
The Chinese University of Hong Kong was founded over half a century ago with a mission to combine the ancient wisdom of the East with the latest developments of Western research and technology. Its sprawling, wooded campus is located in the New Territories, not far from the border with mainland China. Its modern colleges, libraries, sporting and student facilities rise up on a hillside overlooking Tolo Harbour, one of the lushest, greenest areas in this city of gleaming glass and steel tower-blocks.
The campus is dotted with modern sculptures and water features: a replica bronze Goddess of Democracy, erected amid much controversy to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, a wooden Gate of Wisdom, where students come to celebrate on graduation day, plus so many streams and fountains that the sound of running water accompanies you almost everywhere you walk.
Water and light are also the most striking features of a modern ecumenical chapel where we stopped to pray before gathering in the main lecture hall. It was built with money collected from different denominations and designed as a series of circular constructions to echo the unity which all Christians are called to rebuild in the one Body of Christ. The running water of the baptismal font serves as a continual reminder of the unity we already share, as well as the living water that Jesus offered to all who turn to him.
But the most striking place at the highest point of the campus is an infinity pool looking out over the harbour and hills of Hong Kong’s outlying islands. An ancient banyan tree symbolises hospitality and welcome, while the reflection of the clouds in the water at your feet give an extraordinary sense of heaven and earth meeting at the point where you stand. A powerful symbol of the Incarnation for some, but its architect was actually inspired by the Confucian philosophy of 'the way of heaven and the way of humanity' becoming one.
There could be no better way of beginning our next round of discussions about the very rich encounter of Christianity with Asia’s ancient religious traditions.