Jogye draws up manifesto for peace

Seoul, South Korea - The country’s largest Buddhist sect has declared “religious peace” in a bid to curb the mud-slinging campaigns waged by various sects on rival religious leaders and promote unity in a time of social fracture and religious unrest in the Middle East.

The Jogye Order’s “Buddhism Declaration of Religious Peace - the 21st Century Ashoka Declaration” prohibits criticism of other religious leaders and their teachings and calls for respect of religious diversity.

The announcement, the first of its kind to be made in Korea, was issued at a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday by the Venerable Dobeop, chairman of the order’s Hwajaeng Committee for Harmonious Debate.

“Religion has become a source of anxiety for the world,” he said. “This is shameful and I want to express my apologies.”

The move has drawn attention because it comes at a time when religion is increasingly being drawn into the nation’s public square, causing clashes between political and religious spheres.

Recently, the government decided to trim the budget for its Buddhist Temple Stay program, a tourist magnet that lets guests hunker down for the night in centuries-old dorms, wake at the crack of dawn to emulate monks’ bows and, in some cases, sample their special form of martial arts.

The Venerable Dobeop suggested that religion had no place in politics.

“When one’s ‘private’ religion penetrates into the ‘public’ sphere and begets religious slants, this ultimately has tragic implications for all religions,” he said.

“Religious matters that feed into the public sphere must be undertaken in accordance with the presiding democratic ideology, as well as common sense.”

Whereas religion should be seen as a safe haven for people from their troubles, the reverse was more likely to be true these days, he added.

“Buddhism has a long history and is often referred to as ‘the religion of the people,’ but if it had been properly observing its role, then today’s declaration of peace would not be unnecessary.”

The declaration states that Buddhist sects should respect other religions as being equally important, and that they should focus on helping people realize their own happiness rather than converting them to their own faith. The committee spent eight months drawing up the declaration.