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  • Buddhist-Christian Dialogue and Comparative ScriptureMinzu University October 11, 2014
  • Thomas Cattoi

Minzu University was first established in Beijing in 1952 as the Central Institute for Nationalities. The purpose of this new institution was to provide a place in the People’s Republic of China where non-Han students could pursue higher academic studies. Over the decades, this institution would expand and become one of the leading universities in China in the fields of anthropology, linguistics, and ethnic studies. Its commitment to cultural diversity goes a long way to explaining why Minzu has also become an important center for the study of religions, with thriving programs in Christian philosophy and Tibetan studies. In 2011, the university established a new Institute of Comparative Scripture and Interreligious Dialogue, whose purpose, in the words of its brochure, is “to conduct comparative research in the classical or scriptural traditions of the great world religions and to engage in interreligious dialogue.” The institute encourages the scientific studies of texts but also “allows for a study of one’s own scripture as authoritative Scripture in the context of one’s faith community as well as of other faith communities.”

In the few years since its establishment, thanks to the efforts of You Bin, professor of philosophy and religion and director of the institute, the institute has already been able to organize a number of international conferences. In October 2014, Minzu hosted its first symposium, Buddhist-Christian Dialogue and Comparative Scripture. The purpose of the conversation was to explore the role of the study of sacred texts in the context of Buddhist-Christian dialogue. The proceedings started with a talk by You Bin titled “Comparative Scriptural Studies as an Approach to Doing Biblical Studies in China.”

Some of the Chinese speakers offered papers touching on the role of religious practice and interreligious dialogue in public life—a theme that elicits great interest in Chinese academic circles and is discussed with great interest in China today. Thomas [End Page 211] Cattoi—current co-editor of this journal—read a paper on the points of contact and the differences between Origenist spirituality and the worldview of a Tibetan Buddhist text, The Kun-byed rgyal po. Wu Xuego read an essay on Augustine’s Confessions from the perspective of Pure Land Buddhist practice. Rita Gross—former co-editor of this journal—gave an inspiring presentation titled “Living Scriptures: The Women around the Buddha and their Changing Stories,” and Peter Schmidt-Leukel offered a Christian reflection on the Bodhicaryāvatāra. Other papers touched on topics as varied as the theology of Karl Barth, a comparative reading of the Lotus Sutra, and the contextualization of Christianity in China.

The proceedings of the conference will be published in the Journal of Comparative Scripture issued by Minzu University. More information is available online at [End Page 212]

Thomas Cattoi
Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University, Berkeley


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