Building a Model City of Peace and Harmony in Toowoomba
Shi Chin Kung AM
“Morality and Virtues: A Faith Perspective”
Forum Keynote Speech
Allison Dickson Hall, University of Southern Queensland
17 March 2012
Respected leaders from the government, respected leaders of various religions and faith traditions, and honored guests.
Today is a joyful day. Once again we are gathered here in this beautiful garden city, Toowoomba. Joining the forum today are our respected mayor and many elders and friends from Toowoomba. Together with those who are dedicated to promoting peace and harmony to make this world a better place, those who have travelled from near and far, from various religions and faith traditions, we are all hoping and working as one to make Toowoomba a model city of peace and harmony.
The Cause of Disasters and How to Resolve It
We all know that our world is experiencing ever-increasing conflicts and chaos. Possibilities for armed conflicts are seen in many places. Natural disasters are occurring with increasing frequency. Some worry that the end of the world is coming. We have to ask, “What is the cause of these natural and man-made disasters?” “How do we resolve them?”
Dr. Masaru Emoto from Japan, with his renowned experiments on water, has proven that the crystallization of water can be changed from beautiful to ugly when experimenters’ thoughts change from kindness to cruelty. This is perhaps the most direct proof of the law of cause and effect. Confucius taught in the Book of Shan: “. . . do good and a hundred good fortunes will manifest. Do evil and a hundred misfortunes will ensue.” The Bible says: “Woe unto the wicked! It shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.” Isaiah 3:11 (King James Version). The Quran says: “And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned.” 42:30 (The Noble Quran).
We can thus see that due to the ill will of humanity as a whole, our world is experiencing both natural and man-made disasters. Selfishness, cruelty, and such malevolence have created dilemmas in the world. According to the Buddhist sutras, greed causes floods, anger causes fire (a rise in temperature), ignorance causes windstorms, arrogance causes earthquakes, doubt causes frailty of the environment (including cave-ins, and landslides), selfishness and confrontation cause chaos and war, and evil mindsets cause illness and diseases. It is said that “All phenomenon arise from our minds; our environment can be transformed by the mind.” Quantum physics has revealed to us that matter is the creation of our will. Matter is influenced and controlled by our wills.
Mr. Gregg Braden from the U. S. has said that to change our world for the better in the time period described by the Mayan calendar in 2012, we must stop our wrongdoings and start doing good. Also, we must adjust our mindsets to become positive and kind.
Dr. Emoto once organized 300 people to conduct an experiment near Lake Biwa, Japan. They prayed to the stagnant cove water which had become foul smelling. The water became clean as the people kept sending it messages of love. As a result, the long-polluted cove of Lake Biwa became clean and remained so for nearly half a year. We can see that kind and pure thoughts truly can bring about a good and serene environment. If we can keep our minds in a state of sincerity, purity, equality, awakening, and compassion, then all natural and man-made disasters will gradually dissipate. The world will become peaceful and tranquil. Our earth will regain its beauty and wonder.
World Peace Begins with Religious Harmony
In 2005, the former prime minister of Malaysia, Dr. Mahathir, spoke to me. With great concern, he asked if our world would ever be peaceful again? I answered that if we can fulfill four conditions, then it is possible for peace to become a reality. He asked which four conditions? I said first of all, all countries had to treat one another equally and get along harmoniously. Then, the same applied to political parties, ethnic groups, and last, religious groups. If these four conditions could be achieved, and everyone treated one another equally and got along harmoniously, conflicts could be resolved and peace would be realized.
Upon hearing my words, Dr. Mahathir was silent for a while. I then said that these conditions were truly difficult and complicated to fulfill. But if we started with religious harmony and cooperation, then it could be achieved. Dr. Mahathir understood immediately.
Cooperation between religions is the key to world peace. All religious texts teach people to learn the lesson from saints and sages - God, and Buddha, about universal love, broadmindedness, selflessness, abandonment of evil and promotion of kindness, letting go of greed, betterment of spirituality, and doing everything we can to help all beings attain happiness and end suffering. The number of religious adherents around the world still surpasses non-believers. If all religious adherents could abide by their own religious teachings while at the same time treating other religious adherents with equality, with harmony while mutually learning, could cooperate and help one another, then this strong force for peace and harmony would surely bring about world peace.
Since 1998, we did our part in promoting religious harmony and cooperation in Singapore as well as in Malaysia. The result has been joyful. Over the past ten years, we have seen work in the area of religious harmony becoming more visible. In February 2009, Griffith University and the Pure Land Learning College Association hosted the “One Humanity, Many Faiths” summit in the Brisbane City Hall. Over 400 people from 148 religious organizations from Australia and Asian countries, and leaders from political and financial sectors attended. There was much positive feedback, resonating with the theme of the event. These experiences have shown us that all religions and faith traditions in the world are members of one family. As one family, religious harmony can be realized.
The Inspiration of the Lujiang Project of Harmony
For many years, I have had opportunities to report to various peace conferences initiated by the UN and UNESCO in different countries. I presented the wisdom, methods, and experiences from Chinese ancestors, saints, and sages in the area of achieving good governance for a nation. Many participants were pleased to hear about these ancient teachings but they expressed doubt about its practicality. The only way to increase confidence for everyone was to establish a place with a peaceful experimental model in order to prove the validity of the teachings.
From 2005 to 2008, we went to the town of Lujiang, Anhui province, China. We decided to start with this town as a demonstration area. We promoted traditional Chinese culture, using Guidelines for Being a Good Person (Di Zi Gui) as the basic teaching material. These teachings promoted social cohesion and taught about peace and harmony. It was beyond our expectation that within a few months, great results were witnessed. The divorce rate of the town went down. The crime rate dropped. More people talked about family unity and engaged in neighborly exchanges than before. Even the streets were much cleaner and people changed for the better. The face of this 48,000 populated town was almost brand new.
These results have shown us that the innate nature of humanity is filled with purity and goodness. People eagerly seek to have a harmonious society and community. Most simply do not know the method to use to achieve it. Once a way is found, hope is within sight, then most people are willing to do their best to see it realized. People can be easily taught. They can be taught to become better.
Conditions Have Matured for Toowoomba to Become a Model City of Peace and Harmony
Today, with the success of Lujiang as a point of demonstration, elders and leaders who are ready to help build Toowoomba into a model city of harmony have a clear direction and a point of reference. Many staff members and students in PLLCA have resided in Toowoomba for the past ten years. We have established a good rapport with local residents and many religious organizations.
For ten years, the PLLCA has hosted a Friendship Dinner and multifaith forum on Saturday evening. Representatives from different faith traditions and religions are able to communicate in harmony and peace while residents are caring and kind to one another. Visitors feel at home here just like members of a big family. In December 2011, at the ten-year anniversary celebration of the PLLCA, many faith leaders expressed their support and wish for making Toowoomba a model city of peace and harmony for the whole world. This is a deeply meaningful and tremendously insightful action. It is a blessed endeavor of the highest order.
Toowoomba is a place with distinct characteristics. Residents come from many parts of the world, with different communities, ethnicities, and cultures. They each have their own customs and religious beliefs. Toowoomba is able to express its beauty in a multicultural setting just like a magnificent flower garden in which hundreds of different flowers blossom for the visitors to behold and wonder.
Due to these unique characteristics, it is especially meaningful to help establish Toowoomba as a model city of peace and harmony. We wish to preserve and treasure the distinct features of each ethnicity and culture. With a mind that is loving, compassionate, and accepting, we can all mutually respect, accept, and harmoniously treat one another with impartiality.
When visitors come to Toowoomba, they will be able to see people of different colors and ethnicities with their diverse traditions and cultures thrive here as one family. This will bring real awakening to people of the world. This awakening is solely due to misunderstandings caused by a lack of proper communication and mutual understanding. In the past, we were faced with tragedies of conflicts and even wars that seemingly took place as a result of different ethnicities, faiths, and customs.
With the ease of travel and rapid exchange of information, our world has become a village. If we continue to fall back on erroneous old ideas, unwilling to let go of selfishness, narrow-mindedness, and reject others, then human beings are not worthy of the name of “crown of creation,” and disasters, man-made or natural, will be unavoidable.
We should transcend superficial differences and deeply live the experience that we are one. The whole universe is one living entity.
We mutually respect, love and cooperate with one another, setting ourselves as a model of peace and harmony to show the whole world that multiracial, multicultural, multifaith, harmony and peace is achievable. The idea of the human race becoming one family is attainable.
Sustainable Peace and Harmony Relies on Religious Education
Making Toowoomba a model city of peace and harmony will require leadership and guidance from each religion to realize peace and harmony. We hope to establish a Good Will Committee in which religious leaders can come together on a regular basis to exchange ideas and share viewpoints. By participating in the religious activities held by other religions and by helping others with their charitable work, we can share our mutual wisdom, mutually learn from one another, and become one big family.
Sustainable peace and harmony can only be built on the solid foundation of religious education. In fact, religion initially was an education. The word religion in Chinese is zongjiao. Zong means primary, important, and to be revered. Jiao means education, teaching, and transformation. Hence, when the Chinese put these two characters together, it means primary education, important teaching, and a transformation to be revered. There are five elements of an education: morality, virtue, causality, philosophy and science. This kind of education is the medicine we need to correct peoples’ deviated mindsets, and to cure the problems we are facing in the world. It is a prescription that the world urgently needs. Founders of each religion were great educators. They all taught virtuous deeds such as harmony, mutual help, loving kindness, and altruism.
Each religion, based on equality and harmonious coexistence, should focus on its educational aspects and delve deeply into the essence of its own teachings. Each religion should share in the mission to assume the responsibility in educating society and make our world a better place, salvaging the declining social morals and upholding proper values of our society. Should we be able to do so, the saints and sages would be touched by what we have done and with their blessing, there would be fewer disasters for Toowoomba, and for our earth. With peace and harmony achieved among religions, then peace and harmony among ethnic groups, political parties, and countries will follow.
Religious organizations have one more vital task—we all need to nurture more teachers to help promote our own religions, to carry on the sacred teachings. I would like to suggest, first of all, to set up a Postgraduate Centre of Multifaith and Multicultural Education Research to train religious teachers for each religion.
With a good number of religious teachers available, we can then establish a Multifaith University to provide courses to the public in the five elements mentioned before: morality, virtue, causality, philosophy and science to further our pursuit of fostering future religious teachers from a wider community. The teachers should sincerely follow the motto of “Learn to be a teacher and act as a role model for all.”
These teachers would also practice the teachings of the sages and saints in their daily life. Not only will they delve deeply into the teachings of their own religions, they will also humbly learn from other religions. Later in life, in teaching their own faiths, they will be teaching their followers to treat other religious followers with equality, harmony, mutual respect, and mutual cooperation. Together, these religious teachers will safeguard and make sustainable the fruit of peace and harmony in society.
Future Influences and Expectations
When Toowoomba is successful in becoming a model city of peace and harmony, we should share our experiences with others. We hope to organize an annual get-together and demonstrate to the world our ideals, our experiences, our methods and also our achievements. We would like to welcome people from all over Australia, and from around the world. People, who share the same vision to build peaceful and harmonious cities, to come to Toowoomba and witness the achievements with their own eyes, to help them gain practical insights and inspiration, thus helping them to achieve peace and harmony where they live.
If we could make Toowoomba a model city of peace and harmony, then the high standards of achievement could be sustained for over one year, we will set up a satellite television station here. The station will broadcast the continuous-learning way of life of the Toowoomba people to the whole world so they will see the true marvel of living in peace and harmony. By that time, people around the world would all want to learn from the experiences of Toowoomba. They would want to come and visit. Many may even want to immigrate here. Toowoomba would certainly become more and more prosperous.
In turn, people all over the world would feel more and more strongly about the benefits of peace and harmony. They would become increasingly conscientious of their own purity of mind; they would treat others more equally and harmoniously. When the majority of the human race shares such kind thoughts and mindsets, there will be fewer natural and man-made disasters, and in the end we will be able to eliminate them all together.
The power of “setting a model example for others” is enormous. King Tang in ancient China was able to rule in harmony all the tribes within 35 kilometers of his kingdom. His deeds have been praised and highly regarded as the model for governing a country. His way was sought and learned by people all over in China. It was the direct reason for a long period of peace and harmony in Chinese history.
Likewise, Toowoomba, the model city of peace and harmony, will inspire and encourage people around the world, and help them to act and turn more and more cities around the world into model cities of peace and harmony. This is also the wish that has been in the heart of our mayor for many years. If this wish could be achieved during his term of office, it would be an auspicious achievement. The initial positive effect from such a model city would be emanated gradually. It would grow to become more multilateral, and in the end, we would witness a holistic and complete transformation. It would transform the chaotic world by making it a peaceful place and restore the wounded earth back to a healthy planet.
As an old Chinese proverb says, “Actions speaks louder than words.” Today, we are here to discuss the plan to make Toowoomba a model city of peace and harmony. Later, when we leave our seats, let us use true actions to move forward in great strides towards our vision.
I sincerely wish that the building of Toowoomba into a model city of peace and harmony will be a great success.
I sincerely wish all of you the best, good health, and happiness.
Chin Kung AM
Honorary PhD, Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, Indonesia
Honorary PhD, University of Southern Queensland, Griffith University, Australia
President, Pure Land Learning College Association, Inc., Australia
President, Hong Kong Buddhist Education Foundation, Ltd., Hong Kong
Honorary Professor, Griffith University, Australia
Honorary Professor, University of Queensland, Australia
Visiting Professor, People’s University of China, China
Trustee and Professor, Shandon University, China